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10.11.2014

Another Idiotic California Law Screws Wineries

Last week I wrote about the perverted horrors of Proposition 65, the law ostensibly created to protect Californians against toxic chemicals but which inadvertently makes most wineries vulnerable to frivolous lawsuits. The legislators in Sacramento are generally well disposed towards one of their state's largest industries, so while that particular legal snafu was awful, I assumed it would be a relatively rare problem in a legal landscape quite favorable to wineries. But then I read about the plight of Westover Winery in Castro Valley who, faced with $115,000 worth of fines from the California, actually had to go out... continue reading

10.06.2014

The Fake Tongue Illusion and Wine Tasting

The degree to which the mechanics of our own perception continue to be a mystery to us gives me no end of delight. Of course I equally enjoy the insights from our progress chipping away at this mystery, one experiment at a time. While not done with the kind of rigor normally applied to neuroscience, the wine world has offered up several bits of evidence on how our brains and our sensory organs, in particular our sense of taste and smell, can easily be fooled. From putting red food coloring in white wines, to drinking from black glasses and... continue reading

09.20.2014

Tallying the Damage from the Napa Quake

The 2014 harvest is under way in California, but in Napa, instead of enjoying a beer in between loads of processed fruit, many winemakers are rushing back to their offices to speak with accountants, lawyers, and insurance adjusters. On Thursday 11 September, while the country was remembering a national disaster of larger proportions, the Obama Administration officially declared southern Napa County a Federal Disaster Area, clearing the way for federal funds to flow to the region. When the largest earthquake to hit California in 25 years strikes a few days before the beginning of harvest, all hell breaks loose... continue reading

08.24.2014

Earthquake Rattles Napa Harvest

This morning shortly after 3:20 AM Pacific Time, the strongest earthquake to hit Northern California since the devastating 1989 Loma Prieta quake struck in American Canyon, just south of Napa. Latest measurements are somewhere between 6.0 and 6.1 on the Richter scale. "All our 2013 red barrels are on the ground, don't know how much wine is lost yet" tweeted Steve Matthiasson of Matthiasson Vineyards this morning. The photo he shared (above) shows many barrels intact, but undoubtedly the damage from the quake will add up quickly. Sommelier and writer Levi Dalton was in the middle of a trip to... continue reading

08.23.2014

NIMBY Versus Vineyard in Malibu

Welcome to America's newest wine appellation, the Malibu coast. Just don't plant anything, especially not grapes. Only a matter of weeks after its approval by the federal government, the country's newest AVA may be the subject of local legislation that will not only prevent further vineyard planting in the area, but may also force some vineyards to be ripped out. In a classic case of Not In My Back Yard politics, the LA County Board of Supervisors in conjunction with the California Coastal Commission drafted a new Land Use Plan for the Malibu area that specifically outlaws new vineyard... continue reading

08.07.2014

Time For The World's Best Prison Wine

Inmates in federal prisons across the nation rejoiced today in anticipation of the possibility for improvements to their lot in life (without parole). Their celebrations were not the result of the implementation of new prison overcrowding reforms, which are due to take effect in the near future. Instead, prisoners everywhere trembled with the giddy excitement of Junior Prom queens at the possibility that they might soon share a cell block with Rudi Kurniawan, who was sentenced today to 10 years in federal prison. Kurniawan was found guilty in December of counterfeiting some of the world's most expensive wines for fun... continue reading

07.31.2014

Taking Celebrity Wine to the Next Level

It seems like we hear about a new celebrity wine project almost every month. I long ago stopped reporting on these new projects because, well, after a golfer, a porn star, an NFL quarterback, and a rapper all have wines, what else is there to say? OK, Chateau Miraval is pretty damn good. I admit it. But why wouldn't it be, in the hands of Famille Perrin?!? There is celebrity wine, and then there is celebrity wine. Because who the hell wants to just bottle your own wine, when you can run your own wine region? No one ever suggested... continue reading

07.22.2014

Will Climate Change be the Death of Cork?

There's a lot of talk these days about the impacts of climate change on wine. Weather patterns are shifting, volatility of weather continues to increase, and yes, temperatures continue to rise in some areas of the globe, pushing harvests earlier and earlier. Most of these discussions focus on the impact to grape growing, but a recent study shows that another component of the wine world may be under threat from climate change: corks. Over the past twenty years, cork bark has been getting thinner and thinner. According to a group of researchers at the University of Lisbon, who published findings... continue reading

04.04.2014

Are You a Red, Pink or a Purple Wine Stater?

Forget red states and blue states. Let's talk about wine states. They come in shades of pink and purple, according to a new map published by Business Insider based on a recent study by the Beverage Information Group. Serious props go to the folks in New Hampshire and Washington, DC for topping the charts at 25.7 liters and 19.6 liters per capita in 2013, respectively. Of course, that pales in comparison to the reigning champs at the Vatican, who consume a whopping 66.67 liters per capita each year, but everyone has to start somewhere, right? Wine consumption in the U.S.... continue reading

02.17.2014

Journalists Banned from Tasting Domaine Huet Wines

I was surprised to learn this morning that a Loire Valley winery refused to let two journalists taste their wines at the recent Salon des Vins de Loire trade show. And not just any winery, but the venerable Domaine Huet, widely regarded as one of the world's great wine estates. Huet has been going through something of a transition since the abrupt resignation of winemaker Noel Pinguet from the domaine in 2012, where he had been in charge of winemaking since 1976. Upon his resignation, Sarah Hwang, daughter of owner Anthony Hwang, who purchased the domaine in 2003, was put... continue reading

01.23.2014

Sorry, We Own That Color

In the world of wine, trademarks are fiercely defended, usually in direct proportion to the net worth of the organization doing the defending. A friend who owned a vineyard known as Olivet Grange was sued by Australian Wine Giant Penfolds because of that word Grange that appeared on her bottles of Pinot Noir. E&J Gallo has sued a number of people for the use of the word Gallo, even in realms completely unrelated to wine. And speaking of Gallo, as in Gallo Nero ("black rooster"), the folks in Chianti don't take kindly to use of their favorite mascot. Most of... continue reading

01.02.2014

The Robotic Savior of Slate?

Every wine region has its picturesque charms, and a few of the world's wine landscapes rise to the level of grandeur. A special few combine stunning topography and an incredible history of human toil in a way that almost defies belief. Such is the feeling one gets staring down the steeply sloped vineyards of Germany's Mosel River Valley. The amount of effort (and more than a little bit of insanity) required to have planted vineyards on slopes approaching thirty degrees pitch seems mind-boggling. That's even before acknowledging the fact that many of these slopes consist of nothing more than a... continue reading

12.18.2013

Jury Convicts Wine Collector Rudy Kurniawan of Fraud

If I lived in New York, I would have spent the last eight days in an uncomfortable bench seat in a courthouse watching what almost certainly is the most interesting wine-related courtroom drama since the breakup of the Mondavi empire. Today, after less than two hours' deliberation, a jury convicted Rudy Kurniawan of two counts of fraud: one for counterfeiting millions of dollars worth of wine, the other for lying about his immigration status and collateral on a loan application. Known as Dr. Conti by his friends, and infamous for his penchant to buy, sell, and drink some of... continue reading

12.02.2013

Introducing The Essence of Wine Book

Almost two years ago now, I began a collaboration with superstar food photographer Leigh Beisch that I called The Essence of Wine. The premise was simple. I wanted to celebrate some of the mystery and beauty of wine through gorgeous images of the various aromas and flavors in wine. The resulting feature on Vinography has been one of the most talked about elements of Vinography for some time. Many of you readers have eagerly awaited the results of each new photo shoot. And ever since the series began, some of you have been asking for a book. Today I'm happy... continue reading

11.26.2013

When Should You Not Be Allowed to Be Biodynamic?

Spraying biodynamic teas at Seresin Vineyards, Marlborough, NZ As the father of a kindergartener it will come as no surprise to you that of late I have been immersed in a world of debate and discussion around the many issues that shape educational, health, and social policy, at least as five-year-olds are concerned. Not only that, as a family we have been subject to any number of new restrictions and requirements that come from participating in the particular school system that we have chosen to patronize. One of those new requirements is as simple as it is blunt. In order... continue reading

11.08.2013

Almost 70% of the Wine Sold in China is Fake, Says Expert

Who needs John Grisham when we've got real, live anti-counterfeit attorneys such as Nick Bartman running cloak-and-dagger operations in China to expose endemic levels of fraud in their domestic wine industry? Jancis Robinson has just published a lengthy, five-part essay by Mr. Bartman that offers an incredibly detailed insight into what is going on in the Chinese wine industry right now. The first two articles are free to the public, no doubt due to Jancis' desire for this information to be more widely known, and should be required reading for anyone in the wine industry. The tribulations of Bartman and... continue reading

06.19.2013

Drinking Wine While Pregnant: The Latest

A couple of the most commented on and most controversial posts I've ever written were entitled Wine and Pregnancy: The Facts, which referenced an article by the late Israeli wine critic Daniel Rogov about the subject, and a post entitled More on Wine and Pregnancy, which reacted to a more recent article in the news. Both of these posts still get comments today, many years after they were written. Of course most of them are people decrying how horrible it was to encourage people to have a glass of wine while pregnant. You see, here in the highly moral society... continue reading

06.03.2013

2013 Napa Valley Wine Auction Blows it Out of the Water

Every charity auction wants the next year to be greater than the last. To raise more money, to dazzle more, to drive its attendees into a deeper furor of irrational generosity (to borrow a phrase). This year's Auction Napa Valley managed to succeed on all these fronts. I've been attending the auction regularly since 2005 to watch high rollers spend incredible sums of money on crazy collections of stuff, all in the name of giving to charity, and I can say without a doubt that this was the best I've seen. And not just because the auction raised $16.9... continue reading

05.10.2013

Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas

When Charles Banks, one of the former owners of Oakville's Screaming Eagle winery and the head of investment firm Terroir Capital, recently bought a big stake in Wind Gap Wines, it raised some eyebrows. The contrast between cult Cabernet and concrete-egg-aged, cool climate, 12% alcohol Grenache couldn't have been stronger. But when Banks announced a week ago that he was buying the venerable Mayacamas Vineyards, you could hear wine geeks all over the country falling off their chairs. Then when the news emerged that former Screaming Eagle winemaker Andy Erickson might be brought in to make the wines at this... continue reading

02.20.2013

Robert Parker and Cesar Chavez Inducted into Vintners Hall of Fame

What do the world's most influential wine critic and one of America's foremost community organizers have in common? As of Monday night, they are both members of the Vintner's Hall of Fame at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, California. Robert M. Parker, Jr. and Cesar Chavez, along with winemaker Merry Edwards and writer Frank Schoonmaker, were honored at an induction ceremony where they joined forty other luminaries from two centuries of California wine history. The Vintners Hall of fame was founded in 2007 by the Culinary Institute of America as a way of honoring the men and... continue reading

12.10.2012

A Firestorm of Speculation Over Robert Parker's "Retirement"

Twitter and the Blogosphere erupted with chatter this morning as Lettie Teague's article in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Big Shake-Up at Robert Parker's Wine Advocate" hit the paper's web site. Teague reported that Parker "intends to phase out the print version of the newsletter" and begin accepting advertising, as part of a series of changes that will correspond with "selling a 'substantial interest' in the Wine Advocate to a trio of Singapore-based investors who will take over its day-to-day financial operations." Teague went on to suggest that the company's headquarters would be moved to Singapore as a result. But... continue reading

12.03.2012

Evil in Montalcino

Words can't express the utter perfidy of the act I learned about this morning via a tweet from @vinoroma, a fellow blogger who lives in Italy. According to more than one Italian web site, in the middle of last night, someone broke into the cellar of Gianfranco Soldera in Montalcino, Italy, and opened the taps on all of his barrels, spilling every vintage from 2007 to 2012 onto the floor for a complete loss. To do this to any winemaker would be almost as bad as murdering his children. To have it happen to literally one of the best wines... continue reading

07.13.2012

French To Destroy the California Wine Industry Over Foie Gras

OK people, now is the time for outrage. If you value the California wine industry, then you can't ignore the imminent threat it now faces from an official in southern France, who may singlehandedly destroy California wine. Outraged over the fact that on July 1, 2012, it became illegal to produce, serve, or sell foie gras in California, Philippe Martin, President of the Gers regional council (an area of France near the border with Spain), demanded that French restaurants immediately stop serving California wine. Some may say "turnabout is fair play" especially after the Congressional cafe in Washington D.C. renamed... continue reading

04.08.2012

Meet The German Wine Queen

Beauty pageants have come and gone in America as a source of prime time entertainment. Where the Miss America pageant used to get serious top billing, it now can't compete with even the middle-rung of reality television, which provides all of the drama, and infinitely more lascivious, trash-talking vicariousness than a family-friendly catwalk of beauties in bikinis who all love puppies and want to have six children. Given the success of shows like American Idol, perhaps we'd still be interested in beauty pageants in this country if the competition also involved some degree of talent or intelligence beyond looking pretty... continue reading

03.09.2012

GOTCHA!: Wine Collector Rudy Kurniawan Arrested by the FBI

Though it may go unnoticed by a large part of the wine world, the high-end collecting and auction world was rocked yesterday by a major development, one that promises to turn what was an obscure facet of the wine world into serious news. Millionaire playboy and infamous wine collector Rudy Kurniawan was arrested yesterday by the FBI and is being charged with mail and wire fraud charges alleging that he attempted to sell fake wine at auction that could have been worth more than $1.3 million if real. Kurniawan was not only the subject of a suit by billionaire William... continue reading

03.03.2012

2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

Pick your metaphor. It's the wine world's equivalent of being invited to the White House for a dinner, or to the G8 Summit in Davos. Or a getting a ticket to the Oscars, except there's only thirty people in attendance, and the awards are going only to one movie. When the invitation arrives to join a very small group of people to taste the current releases from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti along with the co-director of the domaine, Aubert de Villaine, you cancel whatever plans you have, and just go. Then, on the appointed morning, you file quietly into the... continue reading

02.26.2012

Napa's Best Cabernet: Tasting at Premiere Napa Valley 2012

It looks like the California wine industry is officially out of the recession. Yesterday, at the annual Premiere Napa Valley wine auction, the Napa Valley Vintners Association cleaned up, earning a total of $3.1 million, a gain of 31% from 2011's total. As usual, the auction featured 200 unique wines, most from the 2010 vintage, which were sold to raise funds for the organization. These wines are made solely for the auction in quantities of 5, 10, or 20 cases, and often represent the highest quality wine that each producer can make. For anyone (such as myself) with no aspirations... continue reading

02.19.2012

Wine, Rap, and the Power of Product Placement

No one should ever underestimate the power of the American media and entertainment universe. Pinot Noir producers tried valiantly for years to increase consumption of that grape variety by the American public with little success. Then a fun little movie comes out that glorifies the grape, and sales shoot through the roof. Rap may well be the best thing that ever happened to Cristal champagne, or, perhaps according to them, the worst. Rapper Jay-Z and others were constantly weaving the $250 champagne into their lyrics (and serving it at the clubs they owned), and sales predictably skyrocketed. But then in... continue reading

01.30.2012

Australia as a Lesson on Currency and the Wine Industry

Some of the big news last week in the wine world had to do with the shifting buying habits of our friends Down Under. Thanks to the vagaries of the international currency markets, the Australian Dollar has appreciated greatly against the Euro, and for the first time since the Euro was launched, stuff from Europe is pretty cheap in Australia. So, what does a wine loving country like Australia (they consume about three times as much wine per capita as America) do when imports get cheap? They stop buying Australian wine all the time and they start buying imported wine.... continue reading

01.24.2012

Gallo and Constellation Screwed by U.S. Tort Law

I'm sure I'm going to catch hell for this post from any number of quarters, but it needs to be said. Big wine companies are favorite punching bags for wine lovers that would never buy their products. Sometime's there's a good reason for this, like when they throw their weight around in the marketplace in ways that aren't exactly good for the industry. The bigger the company, the bigger the mistakes they can make as well. When they make mistakes, sometimes these companies can be hung out to dry simply because they have deep pockets. And that's exactly what seems... continue reading

12.25.2011

And From Napa, a Huge Sigh of Relief

A couple of months ago, I did some speculating in my monthly column for Jancis Robinson about what would happen in Napa now that the reins for reviewing the region have been handed from Robert Parker to Antonio Galloni. The fact that Galloni's scores for Napa have just come out wouldn't ordinarily merit much attention from me, except that in my article I made some predictions about what might change as a result. My prediction was: nothing. And it turns out that's pretty much what happened. To save you, and anyone else insane enough to waste a few hours of... continue reading

12.08.2011

Ensuring Organic Wine's Lousy Reputation for Years to Come

I'll bet you didn't know there was an anti-sulfur lobby did you? Sure, you thought, there are those winemakers who try to make wines without sulfur, but they're mostly renegades and eccentrics, mad scientist winemakers-cum-philosophers (all, by the way, terms of endearment from my perspective) who spend more time with goats than with human beings. Some of them make great wine, but they'd most certainly never bother with something ugly like the bureaucracy of food policy, right? They're too busy following their personal vision to make transcendent wines. And thank goodness. That's what I thought, at least, until I got... continue reading

12.04.2011

"Big Jay" Miller Departs Wine Advocate in Wake of Scandal

With eerily similar rhetoric to Herman Cain's "suspension" of his campaign for President this week, and amidst an equally scandalous set of allegations, Robert Parker announced today on his bulletin board that Jay Miller would be leaving the Wine Advocate to pursue "wine consulting, lecturing and wine retail." Miller's departure occurs even as the scandal known as "Murcillagate" or "Campogate" continues to heat up, with suggestions by Parker that legal action against "the bloggers" who have been involved may be imminent. "Campogate" refers to a story broken by fellow wine blogger Jim Budd who managed to obtain e-mails indicating that... continue reading

11.27.2011

Time for a Margin Call on your Wine?

I wrote last week about the great slurping sound that can be heard from China these days when it comes to wine. The explosion in the wine auction market there has been making news for some time. One of my readers who lives in Hong Kong had some very interesting perspective on the matter, which I am copying from his comment on that previous post:Here is the reality in China from someone who lives in Hong Kong and watches all this development. The biggest reality is that hardly anyone is drinking this stuff. It is being gifted. The problem with... continue reading

11.17.2011

The Downside of AOC

News broke today of the prosecution of a convenience store owner in France, near Bordeaux, whose sales of sugar apparently went off the charts right about around harvest time this year. The sugar was allegedly purchased by local "farmers" to "make jam." Authorities, of course, suspected these farmers of being winemakers, and that the sugar was to be used in wines. While chaptalization, the process of adding sugar to grapes that might not have enough natural sugars in them to ferment properly to the desired alcohol level, is technically legal, there are strict limits on how much and when it... continue reading

11.15.2011

China the Wine Juggernaut

Did you need any further confirmation that China is now the 8000000000 pound gorilla in the global wine industry? From the low end of the consumption spectrum to the high end, Chinese consumers are transforming the global wine scene. First we heard of it, they were beginning to buy up large quantities of very cheap Australian wine. Then they started investing in the wineries themselves. That was good for Australia, who had fallen on hard times in other parts of the world. With exports up 36% year over year, apparently, China was picking up the slack. When Hong Kong eliminated... continue reading

11.10.2011

International Crime Syndicate Strikes... German Vineyards!?

In several places in the Southern German wine regions of Pfalz and Württemberg, thieves have been making off with hundreds of thousands of Euros worth of perfectly ripe grapes, in some cases hours before they were supposed to be harvested. The bastards. Theft of wine grapes, while uncommon, is not the rarest of crimes. I wrote about the theft of some top quality red wine grapes from Washington State last year. But the thefts in Germany are on a relatively unprecedented scale, and as of yet, according to the Washington Post, police have no leads in any of the cases.... continue reading

10.19.2011

Napa and the New Kid in Town

Napa Valley has been awash with nervous energy for the past week. And it has nothing to do with the nearly magical reprieve that Mother Nature seems to have granted the 2011 harvest after unseasonably fierce rains. On the surface, everyone pretends it's just another week in wine country, but behind closed doors and in hushed tones over beers in the local bars, everyone seems to be talking about the handsome young stranger in town (see picture). This past week, for the first time in more than 25 years, the wine critic Robert M Parker, Jr did not make an... continue reading

08.24.2011

South Africa Has Some Work to Do

I'm an unabashed fan of South Africa. I love its wines, its people, its food, and the land itself in all its natural glory. Consequently I was quite disturbed to see the news coverage over the last couple of days surrounding a report recently released by the organization Human Rights Watch that, in no uncertain terms, allegedly documents systematic human rights abuses in the South African Wine industry. The allegations in this report include seemingly rampant violations of South Africa's own labor and health laws, including inadequate safety precautions to avoid worker exposure to toxic chemicals and poor or no... continue reading

07.23.2011

Hungary: Where It's Tough to be a Wine Critic

Here in America, our government doesn't produce its own wine, it just reserves the right to monopolize the power to make an obscene profit from selling it. But if, perhaps, Uncle Sam did try his hand at winemaking, it's quite likely that it would be pretty shitty wine, and that I would have no fear of saying so here on Vinography. Unfortunately, it seems that the freedom to criticize lousy wine, especially when it's made by your government, isn't exactly a considered universal right. At least according to the government of Hungary. Hungary, of course, is home to some of... continue reading

07.13.2011

Being Proud of Your Country's Wine Doesn't Mean Anything if You Don't Drink It

There are a few things you can count on no matter where you are in history. One of them is the fact that children, in general, try very hard not to grow up to become their parents. The constant rejection of what the generation before liked, stood for, and lived for has propelled many a consumer trend over the last century. Sadly, it seems that while in America, this phenomenon is partly responsible for the current and coming surge in wine consumption, in France it may be just the opposite. It has been widely reported over the past weeks that... continue reading

07.06.2011

Sit On Your Ass and Drink Red Wine

I can hardly think of a better piece of news than this: if all you like to do is sit around on your butt all day long, drinking red wine may keep you healthier, despite a complete lack of exercise. While there's no word whether the resveratrol contained in red wine can counteract the effects of pork rinds, mind-numbing reruns, and high-fructose corn syrup, it's good to know that this magical compound found in red wine can help with conditions such as laziness, sloth, and too-fat-to-do-much-else. And how did scientists discover this? In space, of course! Or rather, in a... continue reading

06.23.2011

Wine Counterfeiters Get Sloppy

It used to be that spotting the counterfeit wine was pretty tricky. You had to look for a cork that was just slightly too new; a label that was just a little too glossy; or perhaps even a vintage that was never made at the winery. These days? Just look for the used piece of bubble gum floating in the wine. Image courtesy of BBC News According to the BBC, someone has been foisting off some cheap wines on a Liverpool, England liquor store. This is only the latest in a series of counterfeit wine scams that seem to have... continue reading

06.09.2011

Wine: Now THAT'S a Lousy Business

As many of you know, the wine business was hit pretty hard in the recent recession. Lots of wineries went out of business, and lots of wine sat around unsold, which meant people lost a lot of money. From the big Vegas restaurants that started refusing their allocations of Harlan Estate and Colgin, to the little producers whose mailing list customers decided they could forgo buying the next vintage, and instead pick up something at Trader Joes, lots of people were hurting. We're still seeing (if you know where to look) the fallout of the downturn, as wineries quietly change... continue reading

06.06.2011

Wine Drinkers in Pennsylvania Begin to Escape the Borg

Unless you live in a fascist or totalitarian state already, you have probably not been aware of the grave and insidious threat that was gradually infiltrating the world of wine. Machines, smelted in the depths of the earth, engineered by an evil committee of subhuman overlords, have slowly threatened to take over the wine industry in Pennsylvania. Cousins to the passive aggressive computer HAL that talked its way into a starring role in Stanley Kubrick's film 2001, these machines exist for one terrible purpose: to frustrate wine lovers in Pennsylvania to the point that they'd rather eat shards of broken... continue reading

05.25.2011

Compound in Red Wine Shown to Simulate Concussions

Researchers are studying whether a compound found in red wine can produce short-term or the long- term effects similar to concussions in adults. Researchers at Arizona Pyrotechnic College in Sedona, Arizona are using resveratrol, and the red wine that it is found in, to counterproductively create the effects of mild concussions. The trial currently has five professional drinkers in Sedona taking part. The drinkers are taking resveratrol orally, via fine claret, in amounts previously shown to have positively stupefying effects on lab animals. Resveratrol is already being studied as an agent to lower blood sugar levels, for use against cancer,... continue reading

05.10.2011

The Perils of the New Wine Economy

We live in remarkable times. The pace of technological innovation and the remarkable changes that globalization has wrought upon the world economy are staggering in their scope. As wine lovers, we have never had access to more great wines at any time in history. The ways and sources of buying wine have exploded in the last twenty years. We've gone from a wine economy that was rooted in local retail stores (and some large multi-national auction houses) to a modern, globalized world of e-commerce, where most of the wines that anyone could want to get their hands on are available... continue reading

04.21.2011

Don't Steal Mommy's Wine

My daughter gets a kick out of smelling what's in our glasses when we're drinking with dinner, but she knows better than to steal mommy's wine. Apparently, though, not everyone else is as careful. A number of people just landed in court over Mommy's wine. The wine world is notorious for its highly aggressive, even draconian, protection of brand names. Who knew that one of those brand names was "Mommy?" "MommyJuice" and "Mommy's Time Out" are apparently in a death match to determine which has the right to Mommy's name. Careful kids, don't make me separate you! Don't you know... continue reading

04.13.2011

Cheap Wine vs. Expensive Wine: No Contest

Why do journalists continue to consider it a revelation that the "average" consumer can't tell a $8 wine from a $45 wine? This ground has been covered so many times, yet trials of this sort (in this case roughly 600 consumers at the Edinburgh Science Fair) continue to be conducted. I certainly don't begrudge those who have the curiosity to test this hypothesis themselves, rather than relying on the tests that have already been done. And I actually appreciate the extent to which such tests and their inevitable results help ordinary wine consumers feel good about their enjoyment of wines... continue reading

03.24.2011

Drink Like Your Political Party

Forget Red States and Blue States, now there are Wine States and Beer States. While alcohol of choice isn't exactly going to be the best way to demarcate political affiliation at any point, apparently there are some pretty clear differences when you look at the political donations from alcohol producers to legislators. I know this will come as a shock, but... Democrats = wine Republicans = beer Of course, it's not completely black and white, but that's the general trend. According to the web site OpenSecrets.Org, which is run by the Center for Responsive Politics, Democratic lawmakers get more contributions... continue reading

03.22.2011

Where All That Wine is Going

I swear I've seen something like thirty news headlines in the last two weeks announcing "Americans Now Drink More Wine than Anyone Else." This is clearly not true. But what is true, apparently, is that for the first time ever, more wine was shipped into this country (and/or shipped within our borders) last year than any other country in the world. What this actually means, well that's a complex answer. Anyone looking to simplify that complexity (and who wouldn't when you're trying to make generalizations at the scale of the global economy) could reasonably say that America consumed more wine... continue reading

03.19.2011

Why Every Wine Lover Needs to Call Their Representative in Congress

Last year, one of the most anti-consumer pieces of legislation in years was introduced to the House of Representatives under the name HR5034: The Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness act, or ironically, "CARE." I wrote last year about what a piece of shit masquerading as legislation this bill was, and was happy to see that it never made it to the floor of the house for a vote. Well now thanks to a tool of a senator named Representative Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah, it has been resurrected as HR1161, and the named changed to the Community Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness... continue reading

02.10.2011

The Dumbest Austrian Imaginable

It never ceases to amaze me how stupid human beings can get. The latest example of the nadir of our sense and sensitivity? Someone took an axe to one of the world's oldest grapevines, a singular vine thought to be at least 500 years-old and the likely ancestor of the grape variety we know as Gruner Veltliner. This is the first I've heard of this vine, which was apparently discovered in 2000 outside the village of St. Georgen. As the news story which related it's destruction notes, it had survived several wars, the scourge of phylloxera, droughts, and who knows... continue reading

02.05.2011

The End of an Era: Robert Parker Stops Reviewing California Wine

Most that follow the wine world closely, knew this day was going to come, but many, including myself would not have thought so soon. In an e-mail to subscribers today, Robert M. Parker, Jr. announced that he was handing over primary responsibility for reviewing California wines to his associate Antonio Galloni. Parker will continue to conduct vertical and other special tastings of California wine, but the regular critical coverage has been ceded to Galloni. I first learned of this announcement this morning on a site called the Wine Cellar Insider, run by a gentleman by the name of Jeff Leve,... continue reading

01.25.2011

The Future of Italian Wine: A Press Conference

It wasn't your usual press conference. OK, it did start with a diplomat regurgitating roughly the same speech he gave to a different group of people about two hours earlier, but from there it moved on to some very interesting people talking about Italian Wine. I'm here in New York at the Vino2011 conference (no, not with James Suckling). Vino2011 is the third annual Italian Wine Week celebration that both celebrates and promotes Italian wine in the United States. Last year I moderated a panel, this year I've just been given a pass (and a plane flight and hotel room)... continue reading

12.27.2010

Chinese Wine Too Good to Be True

I had high hopes for Chinese wine. And I still do, to a certain extent. But I can't say I'm surprised by the latest news that the government is shutting down some wineries and pulling wine from the shelves after finding a whole lot of faked, adulterated, and chemically altered wine on the market. I've heard rumors of such practices from various people in the wine industry, many of whom scratch their heads when they compare the amount of wine on the market with the amount of acreage under cultivation in China. The two don't add up. Add to that... continue reading

12.22.2010

Open the Pod Bay Doors! Pennsylvania Wine Kiosks Go Rogue

Just about a year ago, I wrote about the wretched solution to selling wine in grocery stores that the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board was foisting on its residents. You remember, right? The kiosks that locked all the wine away behind closed doors so you couldn't touch it, to say, see the back label? The horrible touch screen user interface that forced you to click and click and click. The fact that the machine wouldn't take cash, only credit cards. The video camera mounted in it that monitored you. The fact that you had to swipe your drivers license AND take... continue reading

12.12.2010

Burgundy Makes a Pass at China

As many of you know, I spent a week or so of November in Burgundy on a press tour of the region, including the annual Hospices de Beaune wine auction. I went to taste a lot of wine, but also to see what I could find out about how Burgundy is dealing with the challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century. One of the top "news items" in Burgundy these days can be conveyed in a single word: China. More so than any wine region I've been to recently, most of Burgundy was talking about China in some form. The... continue reading

11.21.2010

Live (Sort of) From the Hospices de Beaune

The Hospices de Beaune wine auction is still in full swing. It opened with great enthusiasm this afternoon, just as the sun peeked through the incessant clouds that have been sprinkling the Cote d'Or all week. For the first two hours, all of the auction lots were selling at 10 to 20% higher than their auction estimates. This bodes well for Burgundy, and perhaps the wine world as a whole. The highlight of the day so far, however, must be the sale of the annual President's lot, a special wine, made even more special at this, the 150th Anniversary of... continue reading

10.26.2010

Too Much (Bad?) Muscadet or Evil Taxes?

I read with some dismay this morning, a news article in Decanter Magazine about sixty growers in the Loire Valley's Muscadet appellation going bankrupt in the past few months, and the imminent danger of perhaps hundreds more following suit. It's never nice to hear about folks in the wine industry suffering calamities such as this, but I have to wonder if there isn't a certain amount of inevitability about it. Like every major economic incident these days, this one has its roots in globalization, and the complexities it adds to market operations. Some folks might say that the Muscadet region... continue reading

10.18.2010

There's Good Wine Problems. And Bad Ones.

I'm sure most of us would love to be in the position of the Japanese government, who recently discovered that they had too much expensive wine on their hands. Apparently entertaining with wine is serious business if you're a Japanese diplomat. At least, that is, if you're in France or New York. Apparently the Japanese mission in France kept 7896 bottles on hand at the Ambassador's residence "just in case." Official embassy records show them serving only 289 bottles to guests last year, according to Japan Today. Having too many bottles of wine is really only a problem if you... continue reading

10.06.2010

Canada: Declare War or Emigrate. It's a Tough Choice

Thanks to humorist Dave Barry's exposé of the looming threat to our national security, I've long been a proponent of preemptively invading Canada. And then came Michael Moore's film SiCKO, which convinced me that after we invade, we might want to dissect the Canadian health care system and find out what makes it tick. And now? Well, I think plans for the invasion should be called off, and all of us wine lovers should just consider picking up and walking across the border. Why? Because when the Canadian Government decides to spend money in a stimulus package they don't give... continue reading

09.29.2010

Winemaker Sues Anonymous Commenters on Wine Blog

About a month ago, my friend and fellow wine writer Blake Gray wrote a piece on his blog about a visit with Charles Smith of K Vintners in Washington. Smith is a larger than life winemaker with a reputation that is even larger (and more controversial). Several anonymous commenters on Blake's piece took swipes at Smith, and Blake announced today that Smith is suing those commenters and requesting that Google (who hosts Blake's blog) disclose the IP addresses of those anonymous commenters so they can be brought to court. I don't know about you, but this is damn interesting stuff.... continue reading

09.23.2010

The Wine Super Villain Strikes

Seems like every few months the news carries the story of some wine theft. Whether it's a mentally ill woman stealing wine from a gas station mini mart, or high profile thefts of bottles worth thousands of dollars, the concept is pretty well understood. Sneak in or break in, grab some bottles, and make a run for it. Given how common wine theft is, I'm not sure whether it's the sign of a mastermind or a madman when someone steals the grapes before they're even made into wine. Maybe what we're dealing with here is a wine Super Villain --... continue reading

09.08.2010

There Will Be Blood

True grievance or flagrant publicity stunt? Lawyers are revving their engines as domestic diva Martha Stewart is rumored to be sued by Vampire Vineyards for what the gossip rags quote "to disparage and tarnish [Vampire's] wine brands by portraying a mock label of Vampire Vineyards affixed to cheap, non-descript wine and spirits products." Furthermore, and not necessarily quoted from a reliable source, the rumors suggest that the lawsuit also alleges that Stewart is engaging in this "smear campaign" to further sales of her own branded wine that the Gallo company produces for her. After a little digging online, it looks... continue reading

08.31.2010

Give Them Some Wine!

The thought of being trapped underground for any length of time is enough to send some people off the deep end. The thought of being trapped underground for 3 months without any wine is a whole different ball game. In the event you missed the news, an underground landslide has trapped 33 Chilean miners about 700 meters underground since August 5th. Already the group has been trapped longer than any other in history. The miners are miraculously in good health and reasonably good spirits. One of them has proposed to his girlfriend. They've made videos for the world. They're getting... continue reading

08.19.2010

A Glass of Wine to Keep You Sane

I've long said that wine helps me maintain my sanity. Well it turns out I may have been more right than I know. Researchers have recently discovered that while it doesn't necessarily make me smarter (damn!), it may help me stave off dementia or whatever special breed of insanity waits for me in my old age. Chalk up another superpower for wine. Of course like all studies, this one has its limitations. Thankfully it wasn't performed on lab rats, but actually featured real people. Norweigans, specifically -- about 5000 of them. So the surest way to make sure that your... continue reading

08.11.2010

Are You an Imbibing Idiot?

Thank goodness for the Internet, as we all need a good laugh now and then. In the latest round of research that makes you scratch your head and wonder, "what on earth were they after?" it turns out that people who order a glass of wine at lunch during a job interview are stupid. Or more accurately, ordering a glass of wine while you're in the middle of a job interview (and you happen to be in a restaurant or bar, that is) will cause most people to unconsciously think you're dumber than you are. Nevermind that drinking while in... continue reading

07.18.2010

This Wine Designed by the Government Just For You

I'm one of the last people you'll see jumping on the Mondovino bandwagon to bemoan the homogeneity of the world's wines thanks to the evils of globalization. But nonetheless a recent announcement from New Zealand, definitely has me a little queasy. You can read the story yourself, but here's the gist of it: the New Zealand government is spending $12 million dollars to improve and bolster the market performance of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Not a bad idea on its face, right? Nice to see a government backing its wine industry and helping it continue to succeed in the marketplace.... continue reading

07.17.2010

The World's Oldest Drinkable Champagne

You can file this story under Stuff I Want For Christmas. According to the BBC, a group of divers off the coast of Finland recently discovered a shipwreck they believe dates back to the late 18th Century. In the remains of the ship they found several intact glass bottles of wine, their contents still well preserved. So what did they do? What any self-respecting wine lover would do.They drank some. Believed to be Veuve Clicquot Champagne dating from between 1782 and 1788, the wine "had a very sweet taste, you could taste oak and it had a very strong tobacco... continue reading

06.11.2010

Requiem for a Winery. Transition to a Wine Brand.

Let me make this clear. I don't intend to write about every Bay Area winery that shutters its doors. Though for the next year or two I'd certainly have a lot of things to write about. But I am choosing to note the sad (and all too common) denouement of Rosenblum Wine Cellars, whose parent company Diageo announced its intention to close the popular winery in Alameda last month and shifted production for the brand, which will continue to exist, up to the BV facility in Napa. I wrote a story last year year entitled How to Kill a Wine... continue reading

06.09.2010

Wine and Sex: The Ultimate Pairing?

In a wine culture obsessed with the idea of pairing, far too few people talk about the best complement to a nice glass of wine: sex. Yes, that's right, forget grilled meats and Zinfandel, oysters and Champagne, the best combo I know of is a bottle of something good and some skin-to-skin contact. Which is presumably why the CEO of Taittinger Champagne recently said at a press briefing that Champagne's main competitor in the luxury market wasn't cheap California sparkling wine, it was Viagra. I'm not kidding. Of course, he might have been, but no matter how firmly his tongue... continue reading

05.27.2010

The Great Wine Unraveling

I've never been one of those folks who decries the globalization of wine. I find the Mondovino crowd to be alarmist and polemical in their approach to wine, more concerned with their ideology than with the facts. However, there has always been an aspect of their argument about which I have shared some concern: the seeming inexorable consolidation of wine companies into large corporate behemoths. I've watched many brands be swallowed up and come out much worse for wear after going through the digestive tract of these beasts, and I've watched these massive companies lumber about in the industry crashing... continue reading

05.12.2010

Does Machine Harvesting Lower Wine Quality?

As some of you know, I recently spent some time on a press trip down in Australia. I'm still working through my notes from that trip, but one of the main points of interest for me were the vineyard practices of many of the producers, in particular with regards to harvesting. Many wineries, of various sizes, opted to do mechanical harvesting, rather than harvest by hand. "Opted" may be slightly inaccurate, however, as the choice is less one of philosophy rather than necessity for most. While the United States, Europe, South Africa and other major wine regions have the benefit... continue reading

05.07.2010

Ransoming the World's Most Famous Vineyard

They say the best way to make a small fortune in the wine business is to start with a large one. Actually there are several ways to make a small fortune in the wine business, but today we must add one more: blackmailing Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. As reported in the UK's Telegraph newspaper, apparently the owner of Romanée-Conti, Aubert de Villaine received at least two threatening letters that promised to poison his vineyards unless he forked over the equivalent of roughly 1.2 million dollars. Apparently the letters, which revealed a detailed knowledge of the vineyards, suggested that two vines... continue reading

04.30.2010

Wine and the Internet in France

I've often decried the pig-headed idiocy of the French government in its persistent cowing to the lobbying interests of puritanical organizations like National Association for Prevention in Alcoholism and Addiction. Here in America, corporations have our government in their pockets. In France, it's the anti-alcohol zealots, who nearly succeeded in getting the government to ban web sites about wine from the internet (thankfully, some common sense prevailed). And people wonder why per capita wine consumption has plummeted by 50% in France over the past decade according to some sources? Consequently, I was quite intrigued to read a study that was... continue reading

04.26.2010

The World's Most Popular Wine Bulletin Board Goes Away

Over the past few years I've partaken occasionally in an entertaining spectator sport: watching wine bulletin boards implode under the weight of their own inhumanity. The self-destruction of most topical online forums, I have come to believe, is only a matter of time. The physical remove of online messaging, coupled with our tendency towards knee jerk responses, mixed with the difficulty in reading emotions in plain text, doused with a liberal dose of pricks and know-it-alls spells disaster for most of forums over time. I liked checking in on the Mark Squires Bulletin Board, hosted by Robert Parker, from time... continue reading

04.22.2010

Georgian Wine on CNN

I love broadening my own wine horizons, and I'm always surprised at how narrowly most non-wine-focused media see the world of wine. So I was quite surprised to see a whole segment today on CNN all about Georgian wine. No not the Southern State. The country. The country of Georgia hosts one of the oldest winemaking cultures in the world, and is regarded by some as the birthplace of winemaking. Georgian wine, of which I've had a scant couple of bottles in my life, comes in many varieties, but they are most famous for their tradition of long macerated wines... continue reading

04.19.2010

Rodney Strong and the Utter Stupidity of the FTC

I'm in a pissy mood. At first I thought it was because I ordered a Pinot Noir tonight at a restaurant that wasn't as nuanced as I had hoped. But the more I leveled with myself, the more I realized it was really because I got the following e-mail today that I've been gnashing my teeth over, so to speak, for a number of hours: Dear Alder, In accordance with the Federal Trade Commission, below is Rodney Strong's digital influencer agreement. To receive future releases of Rodney Strong Wine Estates wines for possible review, please review and reply YES to... continue reading

04.16.2010

Are You A Wine Lover? Then Call Your House Representative. Now.

I've been known to spout an opinion now and again about the Three Tier alcohol distribution system in this country, and the maddening array of ridiculous regulations that govern our ability to purchase alcohol. Mostly, however, I stay out of the fray because I'd rather write about, and I'm sure you'd rather read about, fantastic wines. But something happened yesterday that sent chills down my spine, and made it imperative that I broadcast to as many of you as possible the urgent need to call your Congressional Representative immediately. When you get one of their aides on the phone here's... continue reading

04.15.2010

The Coming Carnage in the California Wine Industry

"The shitstorm is just beginning," he says, with a gravitas that makes it sound like the end of the world for the California wine industry. And while it may be the end of an era, rather than the end of the industry as we know it, my conversations with the man that I will refer to as Deep Tank leave me with a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach. I wanted to get to the heart of what is really going on in the California wine industry as a result of our great recession, so I found the... continue reading

04.13.2010

Knowing Something About Wine Doesn't Make You Special. Or Studly.

Fellow wine writer Eric Asimov thinks that we have a big problem in this country. His argument is somewhat more subtle, but hopefully he'll forgive me for boiling it down to the fact that it's a damn shame that people think they need to know something about wine in order to enjoy it. He posits that we have a culture that has turned wine into an intellectual object, imbued with status and special qualities that can only be perceived and appreciated by the knowledgeable. While Eric and I might disagree about the causes of and contributors to this malaise, I... continue reading

04.05.2010

Two Days Left to Nominate for the 2010 Wine Blog Awards

If you're reading this, you most likely understand the point of a wine blog in the first place. You're out there (here? everywhere?) enjoying finding out about wine and exploring your passion in a new medium. Chances are, if you're like many readers, this is only one of several wine blogs that you read, or at least check in with from time to time. We wine bloggers thank you for your continued support, and in that spirit of support I would like to urge you to participate in the fourth annual Wine Blog Awards. Originally conceived and hosted by wine... continue reading

04.01.2010

Masters of Wine to Begin Conferring Honorary Titles

I must confess, I fantasize about having a life with enough free time (and cash flow) to allow me to study for and complete the Master of Wine certification through the Institute for the Masters of Wine. Widely regarded as the most in-depth and difficult certification available in the field of wine, the coveted initials "MW" that come with the Master of Wine title are a key to instant credibility and respect when it comes to wine. But it turns out that some people may soon not have to go through the grueling series of exams in order to earn... continue reading

03.09.2010

Wine, Health, Science and Journalism: A Study in Headlines

I consume a lot of wine news. When I say a lot, I mean literally almost everything that's published for free on the Internet about wine "passes by my desk" courtesy of Google Alerts, Technorati, a massive collection of RSS feeds, and more. Increasingly I get the opportunity to see how wine stories develop and spread through the Web's news outlets, and it's quite amazing to watch. Recently I've been watching with fascination as the mainstream press does its usual unraveling of some recently released research results focused on wine drinking in women and weight gain. Specifically, I've been giggling... continue reading

03.07.2010

If Your Wine is Organic, Don't Tell Consumers

Apparently, organic wines taste better but consumers don't think they're worth as much money as conventionally produced wines. At least, that's a plausible interpretation of a study conducted by a UCLA professor and her graduate student that was recently published in Business and Society, the official journal of the International Association for Business and Society. Professor Magali Delmas and PhD candidate Laura E. Grant conducted an analysis of 13,426 wines from 1,495 California wineries for eight consecutive vintages from 1998 to 2005. The two tracked correlations between the scores of the wines, their prices, whether they were made from certified... continue reading

02.22.2010

Glass Wine Bottles Strike Back. In the Wrong Direction.

It's not every day I get the opportunity to display my inner cynic. But I'm still cackling at the little bit of fear mixed with preemptive aggression that manifested today in the form of a web site called Wine Loves Glass. Those who spend time in wine circles know a lot about the "threat" to posed to natural cork producers by the proliferation of alternative closures. In the face of shrinking market share and demand for their product (read: threat to their income streams) they've been striking back with a multi-pronged offensive, covering every base from carbon footprints to endangered... continue reading

02.09.2010

Scottish Wine: Crimes and Misdemeanors

Not ordinarily known for their wine or wine drinking habits, the Scots have recently been making news in the world of wine. Who knew that one of the most popular beverages among Scottish criminals was wine? Specifically, Buckfast Tonic Wine, a (rather unholy, if you ask me) concoction of wine, sugar, caffeine, and other additives that make it a bit more like Red Bull than wine. Often called "Wreck the Hoose Juice," according to to the New York Times: "In a survey last year of 172 prisoners at a young offenders' institution, 43 percent of the 117 people who drank... continue reading

01.27.2010

Get Paid to Travel the World, Tasting Wine

File this under things I always meant to do but have never gotten around to.... Every year an organization called the Geoffrey Roberts Trust picks several people to give about $5000 to so they can travel someplace in the world to eat, drink, and write about it, or do something that makes a positive difference in the culinary or beverage world. Yes, you heard that right, you could get $5000 towards some fabulous culinary or wine adventure provided you had a good reason to go other than simply wanting to see how much Barolo you could drink before falling over.... continue reading

01.19.2010

Marketing and Branding Do Not a Winery Make

For anyone who hasn't been paying much attention or who doesn't really care, the wine industry going through a rough patch, especially here in California. Actually "rough patch" is a bit of an understatement, but more on that later this week. For now, I'd like to focus on a single, early casualty of the times. As reported in the Press Democrat last week, Roshambo winery will be closing its operations down permanently, and its founder, Naomi Brilliant, will be attaching the winery's name (and attitude) to a little farming operation she has started up on her family's land in the... continue reading

12.27.2009

Yet Another Wine Column Casualty in the Newspaper Business

Wall Street Journal wine columnists John Brecher and Dorothy Gaiter have quietly announced their departure. Their Christmas Day column, the 579th piece they have jointly penned together, will be their last at the Journal. This unannounced departure of the unique husband and wife wine journalists represents yet another brick falling from the crumbling wall of professional wine journalism. The word on the street suggests that while the Journal has no intention of discontinuing its wine coverage, this was a layoff along the lines of so many that have occurred in the last 18 months. In short, the Journal wants to... continue reading

12.20.2009

How to AVOID Selling Wine in Pennsylvania

So if you had a bunch of grocery stores, and those grocery stores sold wine, but you didn't really want people to buy any wine, what would you do? One of the things you might consider doing would be to lock all the wine away in cabinets, so that people couldn't touch the bottles. You'd want to make sure folks couldn't, say, turn the bottles around and read the back label or anything. You might force people to peer through the front door of this cabinet to try to read the name of the wine they think they might want... continue reading

10.23.2009

Did You Hear That Sound? Wine Retailers Sigh in Relief

Wine retailers all across the country, and especially online today breathed a big sigh of relief. Probably more than a few of them are popping corks in celebration. Why? The Wall Street Journal reported today that Amazon.Com officially announced that it has canceled plans to sell wine online. The announcement more than a year ago that the online retail giant was moving into the wine business sent small shock waves through the wine retail industry both good and bad. Online retailers nervously fingered their Ethernet cables, and wineries optimistically looked forward to another channel to help them deal with a... continue reading

10.05.2009

Wine Blogs are Now* Regulated by the FTC

This morning the Federal Trade Commission announced a new set of rules specifically targeting blogs like this one. In short, the Federal Government says that *as of December 1st, 2009, all sample products sent to bloggers must be disclosed in any coverage of those products. Here's the press release about the rules, here's the full text of the current rules, and here's the document that outlines the new changes that will be added to cover bloggers and other New Media. (PDF) While the execution of these rules was slightly flawed, leaving much ambiguity and unanswered questions, rules like this aren't... continue reading

08.12.2009

Wine Geek Out: What They Know About Oxygen and Wine

Forgive the pocket protector with the waiter's friend protruding from it: I'm a wine geek at heart and sometimes I can't help myself. If you would rather just drink good wine without thinking at all about how it is made, close your browser right now, because things are about to get geeky, thanks to a great article by my fellow blogger and wine science buff Jamie Goode. We still don't know a lot of things about wine. It's a complex animal, where a lot of variables are in play, and direct cause and effect relationships are often difficult to pin... continue reading

08.10.2009

Winemaking as Feminism in Thailand

It wasn't long ago that I learned about Thailand's nascent wine industry. I wish I had known about it back in 2001 when I was passing through. I would have loved to check it out. For now, I'll just have to imagine it in all its tropical splendor, in between the occasional news clip about it that pops up on my radar. The latest news from Thailand's wine industry involves the story of Nikki Lohitnavy, who at 22 years old is Thailands youngest, and first female winemaker. It's neat to see how the development of Lohitnavy's family as winegrowers echoes... continue reading

07.22.2009

Wine Signs of the Times

I'm not sure why, but there has been a spate of interesting developments in the wine world in the past few weeks, all of which bear paying attention to by anyone interested in where the wine industry is going these days. I'm normally not one to simply rattle off lists news stories, but these are all so interesting that I can't pass up the opportunity to share them. We're Talking Mainstream The fact that Amazon.Com is getting in the wine business has been old news for a while, but two more giants of American retail just announced they were also... continue reading

06.01.2009

The Canary in the California Wine Cellar?

These days are filled with unexpected and disastrous business news to be sure. I'd imagine not many people were very surprised to wake up this morning to find General Motors filing for bankruptcy protection. On the other hand, I was frankly shocked to learn today that a company named New Vine Logistics had closed its doors for lack of operating capital. Most wine lovers would never have heard of this company, and rightly so. Their business model depended upon them being invisible to most. Yet this single company was projected to ship nearly 20% of the wine sold in California... continue reading

05.23.2009

The Chinese Roots of California Wine

Every time I visit Meadowood in Napa Valley, I find myself spending time in front of a reproduction of an engraving that hangs somewhere in most of their rooms. It is entitled "The vintage in California, at work at the wine presses" and was the work of an artist named Paul Frenzeny in the late 1800's for Harpers Weekly. Here's what it looks like (click the image to view it full size): I probably looked at this engraving half a dozen times before I noticed the details that now make it fascinating to me. In short, most of the people... continue reading

05.21.2009

A Game Changing New Marketplace for Wine

Did you feel that just now? It was the wine world shifting under your feet. As of this morning, the wine world is quite different, and will never be the same again. Now, Robert Parker caught a lot of heat last year after jumping on his own bulletin boards one day and proclaiming that the next day, some news would break that would shake the foundations of the wine world. He was referring to the sale of Chateau Montelena to Cos d'Estournel, which not only was yawn-inducing for most everyone who heard the hyped-up announcement the day before, but ended... continue reading

05.20.2009

All That Grand Cru Wine is not Worthless After All

In the real olden days, grape farmers had to deal with plagues of locusts, rampaging armies, and all manner of biblical-scale disasters. When things settled down in the 16th and 17th centuries, most of the European folks making wine got pretty complacent, until a little bug came along and wiped 98% of their vineyards off the face of the planet. Eventually everyone got over Phylloxera, and the wine world settled back into its groove, and for a while it seemed that the scourges of old might not continue into the modern era. Safe from locusts, boll weevils, and all manner... continue reading

05.09.2009

All He Wanted Was a Bottle of Wine After Work

I've been working really hard lately. Not here on Vinography, but at the day job that pays the bills. So I can understand the desire to get off work, grab a bottle of wine, and relax a little. Apparently though, that's not so easy if you're any sort of uniformed service officer in the UK. There, they've got laws that say, if you're wearing your uniform, you don't get to buy alcohol. Presumably, this law exists because there either was a problem at one time with uniformed public servants drunk on the job, or simply because politicians and the public... continue reading

05.07.2009

The Future of Wine: Urban Vineyards?

In an age of backlash against big-business agriculture and of increasing value placed on local, sustainable living, the phenomenon known as urban farming flourishes. From tiny planters on the balconies of chic lofts to reclaimed industrial lots, city dwellers in some of America's larger urban centers are finding joy and sustenance in growing their own organic food. And if people can grow tomatoes and corn in an old vacant lot, then why can't they grow wine grapes? My friend, winemaker Bryan Harrington, has planted Pinot Noir in several places within the San Francisco city limits over the years and I... continue reading

04.18.2009

Winemaking as Therapy: Japan's Autistic Winery

When I first started drinking wine, I had all sorts of romantic notions about what winemaking involved. I though of it as a mix of alchemy and poetry and all sorts of other things. Of course, once I learned a lot more about wine, such romantic notions were replaced by a sense of the back-breaking work, long hours, and exacting chemistry that is required to make a decent wine. But no matter what Ive learned about wine, I never would have thought of winemaking as therapeutic. Sure, the Italians have their prisoners make wine as some sort of rehabilitation, but... continue reading

04.01.2009

Somali Pirates Take Ransom in Wine

Apparently the stepped-up patrols of U.S. warships off the coast of Somalia and increased vigilance on the part of ships' captains in the area have not been enough to prevent yet another freighter hijacking. According to CNN, early yesterday Somali pirates in several small boats were able to pull alongside and board the Matriarch, a Delaware-based freighter. Despite the known danger of operating in the coastal waters off of Africa's eastern coast south of the Suez Canal, the crew of the Matriarch were unarmed, and unable to offer any resistance to the pirates, who quickly brought the vessel to a... continue reading

03.11.2009

Starting Today, You Can't Sell Fine California Wine in Europe

Something is rotten in the State of Denmark, Hamlet famously proclaimed. Rotten may not quite describe it, but something is definitely amiss in the European Union when it comes to importing wine. Apparently it wasn't enough for the US to agree to stop using the words Port, Champagne, and Burgundy on products that were clearly not from these areas. Today a piece of legislation has gone into effect that forbids the sale of any U.S. wine in Europe that has any of the following words on its label: chateau', 'classic', 'clos', 'cream', 'crusted/crusting', 'fine', 'late bottled vintage', 'noble', 'ruby', 'superior',... continue reading

02.25.2009

Cast Your Vote in the 2009 American Wine Blog Awards

The finalists for the 2009 edition of the American Wine Blog Awards have been announced, and I'm pleased to report that Vinography is up for three awards: Best Writing, Best Wine Reviews, and Best Overall Wine Blog. I've been publishing this blog for more than 5 years now, and one of the most satisfying aspects of this (second) job of mine continues to be the support that I receive from readers like you. That support manifests in many ways: the comments you leave on the site, the fact that you even bother to come back here to read every day,... continue reading

02.20.2009

We Need Another French Revolution

My beloved Gallic friends: you've done it once before, and now it is time again to rise up and overthrow the tyrannical laws that threaten to hobble your future. France is in danger and she needs her people to join together and walk the path of righteousness instead of descending into evil. We all knew President Sarkozy was a teetotaler before he was elected. But one of the planks of his platform for election was to be the reform of the ailing wine industry. And, indeed, the government took some steps in the right direction at one point, though there... continue reading

02.12.2009

Cocaine is Not a Good Substitute for a Nice Glass of Wine

Listen, wine drinkers. I know times are tough. Everyone has less disposable income these days, and it's tougher than ever to justify paying a lot for wine. That's why champagne sales have plummeted, and there's a constant fire sale on most wines that cost more than $100 these days. We all have to do what we can to manage in these economic times, and if that means cutting back on wine consumption, or buying lower priced bottles, so be it. There are other things that are more important than wine, so it's OK to trade down a little. But whatever... continue reading

01.31.2009

Will UV Treatment of Wine Save Terroir?

It seems like every week, there's a new story about some inventor debuting some newfangled technology to make wine better. Most such stories seem to involve some device that can turn cheap wine into much better wine, auto-magically, which I've now decided is the wine world's equivalent of the famous line "I've got a bridge to sell you." But occasionally we actually get some news of a technological innovation that doesn't involve auras, electromagnetic fields, or crappy wine, and which might actually make a difference in how wine gets made from here on out. Such is the case with the... continue reading

12.23.2008

American and Italian Wine: Movin' on Up!

I'm a proud papa, though I don't think myself at all unique in my position. When my little daughter figured out how to roll over this week and shake her head back and forth, I knew it was only a matter of time before she would get her MENSA membership card and first Olympic gold medal. Nothing quite stirs our emotions like the successes of our own children, but I have to say I got a little verklempt last week more than once over happenings in the wine world. I know, I know. I am a total and complete wine... continue reading

12.15.2008

Announcing A Menu For Hope 2008: Win Fabulous Wine Prizes

How would you like to go a luxury wine vacation all the while knowing that you're enjoying Napa luxury because you helped to feed some hungry schoolkids in Lesotho, Africa? That, my friends, is the beauty of the charity event called A Menu For Hope. This is the fifth year of A Menu For Hope, the grassroots charity event for wine and food bloggers that started in response to the horrible Tsunamis of 2004. Last year's event raised more than $90,000 for the UN's World Food Programme, which set up a special arrangement so that 100% of the proceeds went... continue reading

12.10.2008

The Sadness and Irony of a Wine Museum

Meet Michel Chasseuil. He's 67, drives a beat-up old car, never goes on vacation, and is perhaps not unlike so many aging Frenchmen of his generation. He does have one particular thing that makes him somewhat unique, and of great interest to most anyone interested in fine wine, however. Chasseuil owns what many consider to be the greatest single wine collection in the world: 20,000 bottles of 18th, 19th and 20th century wines from the world's greatest producers, especially those in France. He started off as a serious wine enthusiast and investor, and the thrill of collecting eventually took over,... continue reading

12.01.2008

Surprises Among the 2009 Vintner's Hall of Fame Winners

Every year the Culinary Institute of America sponsors an induction of several luminaries in California wine into the Vintners Hall of Fame (which really should be called The California Wine Hall of Fame, since it includes people who are not winemakers and it is exclusively focused on people who have made an impact to the California wine industry). Despite its misnomer, since its founding in 2007, this organization has admirably sought to recognize the individuals (historical and current) that have contributed to the remarkable success of California wine. The contenders for induction are decided upon by a nominating committee (in... continue reading

11.29.2008

Put a Cork in it: Screwcap Wine Closures Are Not Endangering Animals!

Why do I feel like the wine media watchdog these days? Maybe the holiday spirit brings out the misinformation campaigns like no other time of the year. Or perhaps journalists are getting lazy and are scrounging for material that they can recycle out of press releases they have stuffed in the bottom drawers of their desks. So what's the rant about? Today's piece of crap in the Telegraph, entitled "Screw Cap Wine Bottles Threaten Rare Species." The occasion for repeating this completely asinine claim that somehow if we don't stop using screwcaps all those delicate ecosystems of the cork forests... continue reading

11.28.2008

Now is a Very Good Time to Buy Wine

If I had some extra cash laying around right now, in addition to plowing it into the stock market, I'd likely be out there buying investment grade wine, as well as wine from my favorite expensive producers. If you're a consumer of news about the wine industry, then you understand what is going on in the wine retailing and wine auction world at the moment. On the chance that Vinography might be one of your sole sources of contact with the wine world, let me bring you up to speed: the wine market is doing what the Dow Jones Industrial... continue reading

11.14.2008

E-mail Scammers Hit Wine Retailer

One of the latest e-mail scams going around the Internet appears to be targeted at the wine industry. This scam operates at a slightly more sophisticated level than the now famous Nigerian scam. That scam begins with polite greetings (usually in all capital letters) and ends with with promises to share in a large sum of money if the victim will only help with the transfer of a large sum of money out of [insert country name here]. This latest wine focused scam masquerades as request for a private wine tasting and dinner for a large group from "out of... continue reading

11.11.2008

The Truth About American Wine Drinking

Looks like a piece of news slipped by me a couple of months ago. Every year I look forward to a report, which more than any other single piece of news, speaks the truth about the state of wine in America. Restaurant Wine magazine commissions and publishes a report every year on the top 100 wines and top 100 wine brands sold in restaurants around the country, from family diners to fine dining restaurants. Based on the simple measure of how many cases of each wine were sold at these restaurants, we get a picture of the most important person... continue reading

11.06.2008

Three Cheers For a Wine Democracy

I've always privately believed that if everyone just drank a bit more wine, the world would be a better place. Who knows if that's really true, but apparently it's quite likely that if everyone drank more wine, the world would be more democratic. According to analysis by Jon Bonné, Wine Editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, Obama was elected by The Wine Vote. What's that, you ask? Wine drinking liberal elitists? Guilty as charged. But get this little statistic: Amount of wine produced in states that McCain won: 4.3 Million Gallons Amount of wine produced in states that Obama won:... continue reading

10.29.2008

Dangerous Wine or Dangerous Reporting?

I look up to journalists. I really do. They actually get paid for doing what I play at here every day, and most of them are way better at it than I am. But every once in a while someone publishes a story that makes me wonder how we all manage to avoid riding journalists out of town on a rail. Witness the headlines that are rapidly rocketing their way across the internet: Heavy Metals Found in Wine, Metals in wine may be health danger, and Euro wines carrying potentially dangerous levels of heavy metals. If this is really true,... continue reading

10.21.2008

Wine That Answers the Question: What is This Shit?

Amidst the tumbling financial markets, rapacious campaigning, and international crises of one form or another, we all need to slow down and have a glass of wine. Moreover, we all need to stop taking life quite so seriously. I normally don't look to French winegrowers for a source of amusement -- they are a famously unfunny lot -- but apparently desperate times have brought out some humor in some wine producers in the Languedoc. Faced with low demand for their cooperative produced wines in the face of their region's reputation for producing plonk, a group of winemakers have decided that... continue reading

09.19.2008

Why Do Winemakers Hate Journalists?

Perhaps the only thing worse for winemakers than getting a below average review in a wine publication is being mentioned in any publication that describes itself as investigative. "Normal" journalists, namely those that don't normally focus on food, wine, or lifestyle issues, have a pretty lousy reputation in the wine industry, and sometimes for good reason. Especially when they publish pieces like this. Or when they try for a "new angle" on a particular issue. The issue of ingredient labeling on wine has been discussed at length in the United States, and it's apparently also under discussion in the EU.... continue reading

09.11.2008

Robert Parker Watch Your Back

In the circles of wine lovers I travel in, many folks make a common observation about the evolving landscape of wine criticism. Namely that the era of Robert M. Parker, Jr. is coming to a close, and a new world of wine critics are emerging. I'm not sure I'd personally describe what I see happening in the wine world in quite those terms, but it's clear that Parker has been doing some succession planning in the past couple of years with many of the new additions to his staff. It's also clear that there are many new voices in the... continue reading

09.06.2008

Are EU Lawmakers Going to Destroy the Italian Wine Industry?

France, you get a free pass today. The European Common Market Organization is my newest punching bag when it comes to idiotic wine regulations. I can hardly believe it, but new wine industry reforms proposed by this body apparently will result in the elimination of Italy's DOC and IGT designations for wine. WHAT!?!? If that doesn't make your blood boil, then you're not paying attention. These reforms, which would go into effect in 2009 if adopted, seem to suggest the equivalent action to taking all of the individual Bordeaux appellations and replacing them with just two: "Left Bank" and "Right... continue reading

09.04.2008

A Real Nigerian Wine Scam

Anyone who has an e-mail account and has checked it at least once in the last 10 years has probably received an e-mail that begins: DEAR SIR, CONFIDENTIAL BUSINESS PROPOSAL HAVING CONSULTED WITH MY COLLEAGUES AND BASED ON THE INFORMATION GATHERED FROM THE NIGERIAN CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY, I HAVE THE PRIVILEGE TO REQUEST FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE TO TRANSFER THE SUM OF $47,500,000.00 (FORTY SEVEN MILLION, FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND UNITED STATES DOLLARS) INTO YOUR ACCOUNTS. Known as the Nigerian Scam, or more properly an Advanced Fee scam, this sort of fraud has been incredibly successful, despite what may seem... continue reading

08.30.2008

Church Attendance Down? Try Installing a Wine Bar.

At one point in the glorified history of Western civilization, people were beaten or berated if they failed to show up for religious services. You didn't simply put money in the collection box, it was taken from you. But we're in the 21st century, and the church must rely less on force and more on marketing if it wants to hold onto its market share in an increasingly competitive marketplace. In a move that may have been inspired by scripture itself ("Wine was created from the beginning to make men joyful, and not to make men drunk. Wine drunk with... continue reading

08.19.2008

Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards Exposed as a Total Farce

My colleague Jim Gordon who currently edits Wines & Vines magazine just pointed me to an article on their web site that made my jaw hit the table. Reporting from the recent meeting of the American Society for Wine Economists, writer Peter Mitham describes a presentation by researcher Robin Goldstein, who seems to have performed a sting operation on the Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards and exposed them as a total farce, as part of his ongoing investigations on the perceptions of value and quality in wine. In summary: 1. Researcher invents fake restaurant in Italy. 2. Researcher builds web site... continue reading

08.16.2008

When is The Right Time to Establish Wine Appellations?

The birth of a wine region is a fascinating thing to watch, and I'm sure an even more fascinating process to be a part of. Much of the wine that we drink comes from regions that have been established anywhere from decades to centuries ago, but the quest for great wine and great places to grow it (not to mention the changing whims of the global climate) means that there are always new frontiers when it comes to wine growing. All new wine regions begin the same -- with a pioneering spirit and a hell of a lot of determination.... continue reading

08.09.2008

When Wine Isn't Enough of a Cash Crop, Grow Marijuana

Who knows where this stuff comes from? Or why the first place I find out about it is some newspaper in the UK. But apparently times are tough for some grape growers in Washington state, so instead of putting the hard work in to grow wine grapes, they're turning to Marijuana instead. Or perhaps more accurately, they're selling out to friendly people who show up willing to pay cash for their vineyards. Apparently several former vineyards have been converted to Ganja fields in the last year or two. But one has to wonder at the wisdom of such an approach... continue reading

08.08.2008

Hear That? It's the Sound of a Billion Wine Corks Pulled in China.

It's no surprise that with the Olympics going on, all manner of news media have turned their eye on China. The wine media have taken this opportunity to explore and explicate the rapidly growing interest in wine that seems to have arisen in China in the last few years. Much of this coverage is quite superficial, but increasingly journalists are actually exploring China's wines, wine regions, and wine culture. Two recent articles are worth reading for their thoughtful commentary on China's burgeoning wine culture. The first, from the ever articulate Mike Steinberger at Slate, draws on his experience living in... continue reading

08.06.2008

Italy Gets it Right. Scotland Gets it Very, Very Wrong.

There are those of you who believe that one of my favorite things to do here on Vinography consists of bashing the French government. Believe me, I wish I had no cause to do that whatsoever, but they just keep inviting it. Today, however, I'm happy to prove that I'm an equal opportunity mudslinger, as I pronounce the latest proposals on alcohol regulation by the Scottish government to be profoundly and malignantly ridiculous. The UK, it seems, has a problem with binge drinking, or so the government claims, and with the best intentions, has set out to do something about... continue reading

07.30.2008

How Simple Should Wine Get?

As an advocate for wine, I try to help people enjoy wine more (or for the first time) in whatever small way I can. I recommend what I think are interesting wines that range in price from $10 to several hundred, and I'm always consciously careful about explaining aspects of winemaking or the wine business to my readers whenever they seem relevant or necessary. At the same time, however, I strive desperately not to dumb down wine. It is a complex beast in some ways, and part of its beauty is in its complexity. This desire to avoid oversimplifying wine... continue reading

07.22.2008

Breaking Wine News: Bordeaux's Cos d'Estournel Buys Napa's Chateau Montelena

To those of you in the wine world paying attention to the dollar's stomach churning lows against the Euro, this news may come as little or no surprise. This morning, Chateau Cos d'Estournel announced it's purchase of the historic Chateau Montelena in Napa. While not the first bit of investment from Bordeaux in the Napa Valley, it is certainly a significant one, given both the landmark historical status of Chateau Montelena as well as the prestige and success of Cos d'Estournel, whose star has certainly been rising in Bordeaux over the past decade. Exact details of the transaction aren't available,... continue reading

07.18.2008

That Smoky 2008 Vintage: California Wine and Wildfires

There were a few weeks in June when the last place a wine lover would have wanted to be was the ordinarily idyllic Napa Valley. A thick haze of blue-gray smoke hung in the air, as if the San Francisco summer fog had crept north and picked up every bit of car exhaust along the way between the Golden Gate bridge and Oakville Crossroads. Unless you've been hiding under a rock lately, you'll know that here in California we're having an unprecedented fire season. Somewhere over 3000 blazes in just the first month of the summer, when in some years... continue reading

07.13.2008

Grand Jury Cru: Part Deux

I wrote a post over a year ago entitled Grand Jury Cru, which described the unfortunate plight of the wineries of St. Emilion in Bordeaux, who at the time had recently been told by a French court that the reclassification of the Chateaux (into Grand Cru, Premiere Cru, etc.) was null and void. At the time everyone, including myself, believed there would be a political resolution to the issue by the time the current vintage went into bottles. And indeed, the issue yo-yo'ed back and forth several more times as the French bureaucracy and the lobbying bodies tussled over the... continue reading

07.09.2008

Introducing the World's Best (FREE!) Wine Cellar Management Software

This constitutes the first and possibly the only time you will ever find me endorsing, recommending, and generally plugging a commercial product (that isn't a bottle of wine or sake) here on Vinography. There are two clear reasons for this. The first is that the product I am endorsing is free. The second is because I designed it. Those of you who know a little bit about me may be aware that by day I run an interactive design and strategy consulting firm called HYDRANT, which, among other things designs some of the best e-commerce and web applications in... continue reading

07.07.2008

Red Wine and Charred Meat Cure Leprosy

I'm sorry about that headline. I couldn't help myself. Everyone else is doing it. When I first started writing about wine several years ago, I thought one of the things I might do was to help my readers keep up with the health news surrounding wine, so I started posting little tidbits every time I saw a news item about the health benefits of wine. After about three weeks it was clear that unless I was planning on writing the Wine and Health Blog, there was just no way I could possibly cover it all. There's a new bit of... continue reading

06.28.2008

The Myth of the Monolithic Wine Palate

If you have more than a passing interest in wine, you've no doubt heard some form of this common complaint: wine critic Robert Parker's palate, with it's emphasis for 'hedonistic fruit bombs,' has ruined the wine world, because now everyone makes (unappealing/monstrous/one-dimensional/sweet/spoofulated/choose-your-adjective) wines that taste the same and have the singular goal of a high point score from Parker. I have long maintained that this "sky is falling" point of view (perhaps best typified by the irresponsible polemic, Mondovino) and in particular the demonization of Robert Parker's palate as monolithic represents a sort of irrational fanaticism with little basis in... continue reading

06.18.2008

Terroir vs. Pleasure in Wine

How many times have I told myself not to meddle in the world of terroir? Having (or starting) discussions about the traditionally French notion of how wines possess unmistakable signatures of their place of origin is not unlike having discussions about religion and sexual orientation: you need to take care who you have them with. But here I am again meddling in the "somewhereness" of wines, to borrow writer Matt Kramer's favorite shorthand for terroir. The question of the day is whether terroir includes the "bad" flavors as well as good -- and if it does, whether such flavors should... continue reading

06.08.2008

Ethiopian Wine: A New Frontier in Africa

I'm a sucker for pioneers. Especially those that strike out into the wilderness to try making great wine where no one has tried before. This is why I was positively tickled when I learned about people making wine in Thailand a few of years ago. My latest source of delight in this regard is Ethiopia, which frankly is a much more likely locale for winemaking than Thailand. Thanks to the famine in the 80's, most people's mental picture of Ethiopia looks like this: Photo by Calips96 But Ethiopia is far from a flat wasteland. In fact, it is incredibly mountainous.... continue reading

06.07.2008

France Makes Progress Towards Rational Wine Laws

I can't tell you how happy it makes me to write a piece acknowledging progress in France towards a rational approach to laws concerning wine production and marketing. It seems like every few months for the last couple of years, I have found myself with my head in my hands, bemoaning another setback for the French wine industry at the hands of ignorant, stubborn, and backwards politicians. I've written so many articles criticizing French policies that some of you have even written to complain that I have something against the country, despite my professed love for French wine. This past... continue reading

06.04.2008

The Flavors in Wine are Yours Alone

I do not need to tell you that I'm a geek of the first degree when it comes to wine, but you may not know that my interests in the minutiae of life extend beyond the wine world into lots of other areas. When it comes right down to it, I just love knowing how things work. And why. Which is why I absolutely fell for Harold McGee when I first encountered his book, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, which might as well have been titled: The Geeks Guide to the Kitchen. McGee took... continue reading

05.16.2008

The Passing of a Legend: Robert Mondavi 1913-2008

Today the United States lost one of its living legends, as Robert Mondavi died today at the age of 94. It's hard to overstate the impact that Robert Mondavi had on the wine world. His name itself was, and still is, one of the most well known brands in America. His family's (and his own) success in the wine business was a prototypical example of the American dream. Robert Mondavi moved to Napa in 1930's to work in the post-prohibition wine industry of the region, having grown up making wine with his father and brothers in Lodi, California, before attending... continue reading

04.23.2008

Wine Critics are Parasites, But That Doesn't Mean We Can Be Bought

One of the world's leading wine critics has just proclaimed that wine writers, journalists, and critics are all parasites. According to Decanter magazine, while being paid to hang out in a plush cliffside hotel in Ronda, Spain, Jancis Robinson took a moment out from tasting some of the world's best wines to admonish her fellow journalists, "We must always remember that we are parasites on the business of winemaking." From Websters: Parasite \ˈper-ə-ˌsīt, ˈpa-rə-\ . Noun. 1 : a person who exploits the hospitality of the rich and earns welcome by flattery 2 : an organism living in, with, or... continue reading

04.17.2008

Does Expensive Wine Taste Better Than Cheap Wine?

Regardless of your level of wine knowledge, and independent of the price you normally pay for a bottle of wine, I'm willing to bet that you'll agree with the following statement: On average (which is to say, not ALWAYS) a bottle of wine that costs $150 will taste better than a bottle that costs $2. That's what I would assume, at least. And built into that assumption is another assumption -- that many people (though certainly not all) would be able to tell the difference between the two. According to a recent paper from the delightful folks at the Journal... continue reading

04.13.2008

Lest You Forget That Wine is Business...

As wine lovers, we all belong to a club whose entrance criteria include passion and romanticism. We return to wine again and again for its magical ability to transcend what is in the glass, and to transport us in memory and experience to both favorite and new places. By far the most pleasurable and rewarding relationship with wine involves an affair of just these sorts of passions, blissfully ignorant of the facts which demand that wine also be understood in terms of economics, politics, and science. Many of us are content to live in a world where there is no... continue reading

04.08.2008

Dirty Tuscan Laundry

What's a little bit of Cabernet between friends? Depends on who you ask. In California a little dash of Cabernet in your Merlot, or vice versa would hardly be cause for comment. Technically, in order to have the words "Cabernet Sauvignon" on the label, only 75% of the wine has to be Cabernet. In Italy, however, the largest wine scandal in decades has recently erupted over a little bit of Cabernet and Merlot mixed in with Sangiovese. In an incident that is already being referred to as Brunellogate, several prominent winegrowers in Tuscany are facing prosecution on charges of adulterating... continue reading

03.26.2008

My Next Wine Vacation: Paris Pawn Shops

As a kid, I badly wanted to be an archaeologist for a period of time. When I was twelve, I saved up until I could (with a little help from Grandma) buy a metal detector. I suppose I've never lost the fascination with buried treasure. Heck, I went to Egypt on my honeymoon. And if I had a TV, I would definitely watch the Antiques Roadshow. Which is why, I suppose, that I now desperately want to spend a few weeks canvassing the back alleys of Paris now that its pawn shops are accepting wine. OK, so it's not quite... continue reading

02.29.2008

The Great Sipping Sound of Hong Kong

Mark my words: China is the next big thing when it comes to wine. Wine consumption that is. I've had more than a few Chinese wines that make it clear that they've got a long way to go when it comes to making decent table wine, but when it comes to drinking wine, China is moving up fast in the ranks of wine consumers. As China mints more millionaires every week, international business hubs like Hong Kong and Shanghai are exploding as centers for spending the newfound wealth of the nation's richest citizens. Increasingly, a share of that cash seems... continue reading

02.26.2008

What Wine Goes with Recession?

If the election buzzphrase in the early 1990s was "It's the economy, stupid!" in 2008 that might be revised to, "it's the stupid economy!" Everyone is in a tizzy these days, and rightfully so. America is going through a rough patch that many believe is the culmination of decades of bad financial habits on a national level, not the least of which is our tendency to spend beyond our means on the level of the individual and the government. Housing prices plummet, foreclosures rise, the dollar weakens, consumer confidence wavers, and of course, all business sectors are beginning to think,... continue reading

01.20.2008

Science Confirms Gold Plated Wine Bottles Are Best

From now on, I'm only buying wine if it comes in a gold plated or platinum plated bottle. I want my wine bottles encrusted with jewels, and preferably as expensive as possible. Perhaps we can convince Damien Hirst to come up with something called For The Love of Wine? My newly expensive tastes are, of course, the result of some new neuroscience that has gotten a large amount of press in the past two weeks. I don't know what it is, exactly, that the mainstream media love about wine related science, but the recent experiments from some folks down at... continue reading

01.02.2008

Cornas Is Saved For Wine Lovers Everywhere

I can't think of a better Christmas gift. OK, maybe world peace would be a better one, but I'm thrilled to report that the vineyards of Cornas have been saved from the evil forces of real estate development. Regular readers will remember earlier in the year when I related the horrific news that despite protests from everyone involved, the mayor of Cornas was going to approve a commercial development that would have obliterated some of the best vineyard land in the village of Cornas in the Northern Rhone valley. Together with some of you readers, and wine lovers from around... continue reading

11.25.2007

Tasting Our Way towards Terroir

If you want to get into an argument with a die hard wine lover, just bring up terroir -- the nebulous, mythical, and increasingly subjective notion that wines express the place and circumstances of their making. This "somewhereness," to borrow one of my favorite terms for the concept, has been used as a justification for nearly anything you could think of in the world of wine, both good and evil. A couple of years ago, I decided that talking about terroir was like talking about God. It is best done behind closed doors and with people whom you are sure... continue reading

11.17.2007

Don't Throw Out All That St. Emilion!

I know it's too late for some of you. You've already thrown out all that St. Emilion wine that used to be Grand Cru at one point, but which was turned into worthless, unclassified Bordeaux eight months ago. But for those of you who haven't divested yourself of all that pedestrian plonk, I have some good news. It's now back to being great wine again. It's certainly incredible, isn't it, how quickly our wine can go from great to lousy and back again? It's almost like the Wine Spectator rated it an 88 one day and then a few months... continue reading

11.09.2007

Money Alone Will Not Save European Wine

The European wine industry, especially the French wine industry, needs a serious shot in the arm. It has needed one for more than a decade. A few days ago, the European Union tried to give it one, but thanks to the characteristic myopia of international politics, it might as well have just taken a few hundred million dollars and flushed it down the toilet. The EU recognized, correctly, that European wine isn't particularly competitive (read: doesn't sell) on the world market once you get outside of the luxury price range ($25 and above). Unfortunately, the majority of European wine made... continue reading

08.25.2007

Caribineri di Vino. AKA: Sommelier Cops.

Sometimes I really do just feel like everything in Europe is better. Of course, I know that this is just my food and wine version of the grass is greener. But then I hear stories like this one and I have to shake my head in wonder. In America, our cops are busy being trained how to negotiate with a hijacked airplane and how to spot terrorists in a crowd. In Italy? They're training 25 of their military cops to be sommeliers so they can better track down wine fraud. How cool is that? The best place to be a... continue reading

08.17.2007

What Wines Do Americans Drink?

I'm completely fascinated whenever I learn more about what the "average" American drinks when it comes to wine. The Restaurant Magazine annual report on the top selling brands of wines in America that I regularly reference here on Vinography is always a sober wake up call to most of us who are wine lovers, because it represents a world of wine that we left behind a long time ago, or in some cases, have never experienced. Is it safe to assume that none of you reading this blog regularly buy Turning Leaf or Franzia boxed wine from Safeway? Last time... continue reading

07.23.2007

Stabbing Cornas In the Chest

For the last week there has been quite a conversation brewing as the result of my commentary on a magazine article discussing EU wine reforms, which include ripping out quite a lot of underperforming vineyards around Europe (mainly in France). Now I don't know enough to be able to say definitively whether ripping out (or "grubbing up" as the Europeans like to call it) can actually help the European wine industry, but I understand the logic being used. There is another, smaller, less visible set of plans on the table to rip out some vines, for which I can find... continue reading

07.18.2007

The Soul vs. The Market

I'm seriously behind on my magazine reading. So much that along with putting some delicate Japanese ceramics out of reach, I actually had to reduce the height of some piles before my 14-month-old niece Isabell came over and started wandering around my living room. In my mind's eye I watched her crushed under the weight of 12 issues of Decanter, 12 issues of The Wine Spectator, and 14 issues of Wired Magazine, and it wasn't pretty. So anyhow, in the course of flipping through some of the stacks of dead trees in my house, I came across an absolutely lovely... continue reading

07.15.2007

Wine As Self Defense

I swear you couldn't possibly make this shit up if you tried. Forget the NRA, next time you happen to come home to someone in a ski mask rifling through your possessions, or when a cadre of armed men break into your private club demanding everyone's wallets or jewelry, just make sure you offer them a glass of (good) wine before trying other negotiation tactics. Apparently all it took was a glass of Château Malescot St-Exupéry (a Bordeaux Third Growth estate), a nibble of camembert cheese, and a group hug to prevent a recent robbery in a private home in... continue reading

07.15.2007

About Those 2007 Bordeaux Futures...

Nature giveth, and she taketh away. Just when we all thought that Global Warming might be making wine a little easier to make in Europe, the summer of 2007 comes along and reminds us that we can put a man on the moon, but we're not any better at predicting the weather more than about 7 days out. In case you haven't been following the news, it's looking like the 2007 vintage in Bordeaux is going to be one of the worst in recent memory. Unseasonably cold and hard rains have decimated the grape crops, to current estimates of approximately... continue reading

07.10.2007

How to Win Friends in the Wine Business

It never ceases to amaze me how people tend to forget that they are just customers. I'm guilty of this too, sometimes, but we tend to start thinking that we're entitled to buy whatever it is that we're buying, and we forget that being able to buy the things we want is a privilege that comes with strings attached. We have to hold up our end of the bargain to be good customers, and we also have to remember that even when we do, the folks selling us what we want are not obligated to keep doing so, especially if... continue reading

06.29.2007

Stop The State Fair Madness

We interrupt your normal levelheaded Vinography programming with the following outraged rant. Listen up wine industry folks, this whole state fair thing has gone on long enough and it just needs to stop. If I hear one more winery boasting that their Zinfandel won a gold medal at the Butte County fair, and silver at the Cal State Expo, I think I'm going to be sick. And listen up wine consumers, while I explain to you how utterly ridiculous and meaningless these awards are, and how you should never use them as part of your decision for purchasing a wine.... continue reading

05.30.2007

Open a Bottle, Get a Date

File this under, "what won't they think of next?" The world of wine marketing has taken some pretty strange twists and turns over the years: wine in a box (good idea!); critters on the label (who would have guessed?); wine just for women (lame!); integrated plastic cups for drinking (huh?). Now the latest from the drunk staffers at some marketing agency somewhere in France: open a bottle, get laid get a date. Apparently the scheme works like this. Several different types of wine are sold under the moniker of "Soif du Coeur" (Thirsty Heart). You buy a pink bottle if... continue reading

05.20.2007

Whenever You Can, Blame The Consultants

It's hard to blame people for acting like people, but our tendencies as a species sometimes blow me away. Find me someone in a situation they're unhappy with, and I'll show you a person looking for a scapegoat. I suppose some evolutionary psychologist could tell me why it is that we always want to blame somebody, anybody, for the state of the world, but for now I'm left chuckling and half-horrified as always. I like to make a big deal out of the difficulties that France is facing at the moment. I've called it a crisis of epic proportions, which... continue reading

05.16.2007

James Beard Does Wine

The annual James Beard Awards focus on restaurants and journalism with a myriad of awards covering all sorts of categories of each. Of particular interest to me are the journalism awards, some of which inevitably highlight a few of America's best wine writers and their work. It's always worth paying attention to those restaurants and wine professionals who are recognized for their work as well. So without further ado, here's what the James Beard Association had to say about the past year of wine in America. Newspaper writing on spirits, wine or beer (in a rare tie) Eric Felten,... continue reading

05.15.2007

New Frontiers of The Online Wine World

Something very interesting is going on in New Jersey. You have to be a bit of a wine geek mixed with a little tech geek to know about this piece of news, and you might need to be both in order to appreciate it as well. But it was announced yesterday that Gary Vaynerchuck of WineLibraryTV Fame has purchased the website Cork'd. By way of full disclosure, it should be noted that Gary's company advertises on Vinography. Cork'd is one of the many Web 2.0, or should I say "Wine 2.0" startups that is attempting to bring the power of... continue reading

04.25.2007

Drinking Buddies - A New Twist

Mostly, I try to keep this blog focused on good wine, and good writing about wine, knowing that there are plenty of other outlets out there for the bizarre, the frivolous, and the gear. However, when things like this "My Other Half" wine-glass-gadget come along, it's hard to resist. In case it's not blindingly obvious from the photo, these two glasses are connected by a tube so that the wine flows between them in such a way that when the glasses are both at the same elevation, there is always the same amount of wine in each. Or at least... continue reading

04.24.2007

Bring Out Your Dead....Wines

People say the darndest things. I think we're all given to pronouncements once in a while. There's something very self satisfying about declaring with finality that something is so, so much that most journalists (myself included) have a hard time resisting the urge to speak in headlines. Take this recent pronouncement from the news pages of the wine world: Vins de Garage are Dead. With this headline Decanter Magazine proclaimed the end of the garagiste movement in Bordeaux. For those unfamiliar with this movement, it began in the mid-1990s as a group of independent winemakers began making small lots of... continue reading

04.18.2007

The Future of Wine Marketing?

I first reported on the strange phenomenon of wine related manga comics in Japan about a year ago, but it seems they're gaining in popularity. At the time, one of my readers mentioned another, newer comic by the name of "Kami no Shizuku" (literally "god's droplets") which offered commentary and musing on the virtues of French wine. According to some, it's a pretty compelling comic, with particularly thirst generating properties. Well according to a story in today's news, that comic has been translated to Korean and is a huge hit in South Korea. Of course, in the extremely litigious and... continue reading

04.11.2007

The Vines of Robinson Crusoe

As a young kid my imagination was swept away by tales of pirates and castaways in the South Pacific. In particular I was captivated by the tale of Robinson Crusoe, mostly based on the fantasy of being clever enough to actually survive and live in comfort on a remote tropical island. Of course, when I got older I realized that as inventive as Robinson Crusoe was, he was missing some pretty big essentials there on the island that rendered it slightly less than paradise in my opinion. The two things he was really missing? Women and wine. OK. Maybe he... continue reading

04.07.2007

Bordeaux En Primeur Season Begins

Spring is in the air, and Spring has been associated with Bordeaux for a long time in the wine world. The annual Bordeaux En Primeur season, in which members of the trade and the media get to taste the most recent vintage from all the major Bordeaux producers, is underway, and will culminate soon in the pricing of 2006 Bordeaux futures. In Stravinsky's ballet Rite of Spring, based on the ancient pagan rituals that were so common this time of year, the plot involves the sacrifice of a virgin girl to the god of Spring to ensure his benevolence. In... continue reading

03.31.2007

Grand Jury Cru

If this isn't a good reminder of how we get too wrapped up in labels and designations, I don't know what is. Some purchasers of 2006 Bordeaux futures from wineries in St. Emilion went to bed owning Grand Cru wines on Thursday night, but on Friday morning when they awoke, those wines were cru-less, so to speak. Just plain St. Emilion. On Friday a French Court overturned the recent re-classification of the houses of Saint Emilion after a number of producers challenged it as "unfair" in court. Not only did the court overturn the classification, but they have stated that... continue reading

03.21.2007

Technology = Better Bordeaux?

I should tell you, I briefly considered scrapping this post, as I'm sure it's going to bring out the doomsayers among my readership, but that's ok, the conversation needs to be had. I came across an interesting article in Business Week Magazine last week that I thought perfectly captured the threshold on which the wine world, and France in particular finds itself today. It's worth a read, but for the purposes of my point, let me summarize some key facts laid out in the article: 1. 4000 or so lesser known Bordeaux producers have gone out of business since the... continue reading

03.19.2007

What is the World Coming To?

How do we know that we've finally reached the point where we should just get rid of our government and start over again? When they spend time, energy, and taxpayer money making decisions and laws that so offend rational thinking it takes the breath away. Today's candidates for removal from office? The Utah State Government, who in decisive move to uphold the morality of their state have told poor Glenn Eurick that he can no longer have a license plate on his car that reads: MERLOT. Apparently Utah has a law that forbids anyone from having "words for intoxicants" on... continue reading

03.15.2007

Leftover Wine? Use It to Grow Your Own Clothes

Many of you ask, "how can you come up with something to blog about every day for three years?" I gotta tell ya people, sometimes it's not the easiest thing in the world, but other times life just pitches slow balls right across the plate. I can hardly believe how bizarre the world can be when you get right down to it. Case in point? The latest ground-breaking research in wine chemistry which has developed a way to harness bacterial action to grow clothes from gradually spoiling red wine. Yes, that's right, leave a bunch of wine around to... continue reading

03.13.2007

Waiter, I'd Like a Glass of Merlot and a Magnet

Even when modern science and technology have proven its futility, alchemy still lives in the human heart. The perennial search to transform lead to gold is no doubt still underway in some places around the world, but the materials involved are less important than the hope itself: the peculiar human desire to apply a small bit of technology (or magic) to something common and yield something rich. We seem to always want to get something for nothing. And why should the wine world be any different? Over the past three years (as long as I've been seriously paying attention to... continue reading

02.28.2007

Coming to France's Rescue

I love French wine. I really do. I love lots of other wines, too, but the wines of France hold a special spot in my heart. Which is why, perhaps, I find myself so angry and frustrated at the country's seeming inability to save itself from an increasingly desperate situation when it comes to its wine industry. Declining consumption, global competition, and what I see as utterly idiotic marketing and appellation laws are choking the French wine industry to death. It's both depressing and infuriating at the same time. This week, however, there were two rays of sunshine amidst the... continue reading

01.29.2007

The Great Winery Boom of 2006

In case you haven't noticed, dear reader, there are a lot of Big Wine Headlines that never make their way here onto Vinography. In addition to my desire to present you with the sorts of stuff that I would want to read were I in your place, I also try to filter out a lot of the stuff that is more industry marketing than real news. There's been a lot of hype in the last 12 months about the growing market for wine in America: how Americans are drinking more wine than ever; how Americans are drinking more wine than... continue reading

01.28.2007

The Science of Sparkle

It still comes as quite a surprise to me just how much high-tech investigation goes on about the bubbles in Champagne. Physicists and material scientists can't be blamed, however, for preferring discussions of laminar flow and fluid dynamics in the context of a glass of sparkling wine rather than, say, diesel outboard motor exhaust in freshwater lakes. A few months ago I brought you the latest findings on why and how bubbles actually form in Champagne. This month, courtesy of Harold McGee and his blog, News for Curious Cooks, we now know more about how the shape of the champagne... continue reading

01.19.2007

The New White Rioja: Progress or Perdition?

As of 2007, the white wines of Rioja will never be the same. For some, this means "there goes the neighborhood!" For others, this means there is such a thing as progress. I personally think it's a little bit of both, but I lean heavily towards the progress end of the argument. Here's the deal. Up until an announcement this week by the OIPVR (Organización Interprofesional del Vino de Rioja -- the governing body for the Rioja appellation), white wines in Rioja that were able to put the appellation on the label had to be made from Viura (Macabeo), Malvasi­a... continue reading

12.29.2006

The Corporation Behind Your Favorite Vineyard

Despite the gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair by liberals and conservatives alike, the world is becoming globalized. And what this really means is that more and more aspects of everyone's lives are operating according to market forces and dynamics. Among other thing, this has meant changes in the wine industry -- many of which have been good for wine lovers everywhere -- not the least of which has been the increased access to many wines that heretofore have been impossible to get. Of course there's a downside as well, though I don't think so much of one as... continue reading

11.29.2006

More about Wine and Pregnancy

Drinking while pregnant is a touchy subject no matter how you approach it. Most Americans, understandably, seem to be unable to approach any discussion of it without the strong moralistic bias that underlies so much of our culture. While the majority's point of view on the subject is morally driven, the righteousness of the "common sense" on the issue comes not from some religious conviction, but from an unconsidered, yet zealous acceptance of supposed scientific evidence. In short, everyone knows that "it's dangerous to drink while pregnant because it leads to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and birth defects." Yet, like... continue reading

11.15.2006

Now THAT's Cultivating a Market

While the major wine producing countries of the word are busy trying to figure out what to do to penetrate the massive potential market of wine drinkers in China, some crafty governmental organization in Canada is already colonizing the kitchens and basements of the swelling Chinese middle class. Figuring that the best way to get people to drink wine is to make it dead easy for them to learn about it, the International Wine Cultural Promotion Association (who ever knew there WAS such a thing?!?) has plans to give over 100,000 wine refrigerators and free wine magazine subscriptions to lucky... continue reading

11.13.2006

My Latest Occupational Hazard

Our bodies know things, and tell us all the time, but most of the time we choose to ignore them. I eat foie gras and as much as I enjoy it, I can feel the arteries hardening after each bite. Likewise, I've known for a while that spending eight hours tasting several hundred wines is not great for my teeth. When they're Rieslings or Pinot Noir or other wines that tend to have higher acidity levels, my teeth really hurt for the next 24 to 36 hours afterwards. I have to brush gingerly, and anything very cold or hot makes... continue reading

11.07.2006

The James Beard Chef Awards Go Democratic

Venerable institutions often suffer more than normal companies and organizations when things go wrong internally. The Red Cross took a lot of heat recently, for instance. The James Beard Foundation, too, was wracked by scandal two years ago as its director resigned in advance of his indictment for fraud, an investigation by the Attorney General's office, and the eventual resignation of its entire board of directors. This was a difficult blow for an organization that has a monolithic reputation as one of the primary authorities on food, food writing, cooking, and fine dining in the United States. The annual James... continue reading

11.06.2006

A Good Overview of France's Problem

I've written often (bitingly, sometimes) about the woes of the French wine industry. I tend to give the French a hard time because I love their wines, and I think the poor state of their wine industry is/was a totally avoidable situation. So like a friend who hassles you about your weight because they want you to get healthier, I tend to rag on the French a bit, hoping that maybe if enough of us point out how silly some of their laws are, they might actually get changed. I know, I know. I've heard that one of the definitions... continue reading

10.26.2006

Kicking Them While They're Down

After you've added insult to injury, what is your next step? Do you pile on ridicule? I almost don't even want to blog about this, as it's really not my intention to poke my fingers in the eye of the French, whose wines and country I adore. But someone has, yet again, tried to do a comparative tasting between California and French wines and, yet again, California wines have come out on top. The irony of the latest tasting is that it was engineered by the French, for the French, and in direct response to the last such tasting (the... continue reading

10.25.2006

Where do Those Bubbles Come From?

I've always been a bit bemused when confronted with the phrase "food science." There's just something....hokey about it. I can't help suppressing a chuckle when I read it. It calls to mind men wearing thick rimmed glasses, white lab coats, and very serious expressions as they measure the elasticity of peanut butter between two cracker crusts. But food science is a real discipline, and there are lots of people out there who are doing some pretty bizarre interesting research. I've done a lot of Champagne reviews recently, so one of their latest studies caught my eye as I browsed through... continue reading

10.23.2006

Measuring a Wine's Cost a Different Way

I'm a bit behind on my reading of wine news, but as I was catching up this evening I stumbled across this nice article reporting on the environmental impact of wine production. Of course, like all industries, it's impossible to imagine wine production to be a zero-impact or even low-impact business when it comes to the environment. Here in California we've heard more than once about the detrimental effects that large scale wine production can have. But what about smaller productions, we might say to ourselves? A mom and pop winery, maybe in the Old World -- they can't pollute... continue reading

10.14.2006

You Can't Call Your Wine That Anymore

We live in a world dominated by brands, a marketplace where name and image can make the difference between stunning success and dismal failure. In a consumer world driven by media messages, advertising, and competition for eyeballs and mindshare it's no wonder that people are so protective of the names of their wines. They have to be. But things really start to get funky when we get into the world where a wine's name is often the same as the place it is grown or the varietal it is made from, or both. The winegrowers of the Mosel Saar-Ruwer region... continue reading

10.11.2006

New Wine Editor for The San Francisco Chronicle

Earlier in the year, the departure of Linda Murphy as editor of the Wine section was relatively big news in San Francisco. She's now landed a gig working for Jancis Robinson, and there's been some speculation about who might take her place. My friend Derrick over at An Obsession with Food has the scoop on her successor. It looks like it's going to be Jon Bonné, who in addition to being the Lifestyle editor at MSNBC until recently, is also notable for being....wait for it.....a blogger! John runs the popular blog Amuse Bouche. Does this mean that in addition to... continue reading

09.28.2006

The First Real Study on Global Warming and Vineyards

It's nearly already a cliché: start buying land in Sweden, because soon you'll be able to grow grapes there. There has been an awful lot of talk over the last 15 years about rising global temperatures and the effects on the wine world. For some of us, there was long ago enough circumstantial evidence (along with the very real, documented increase in global temperatures) to point to some pretty serious implications for the winegrowers of the world. There are lots of hardcore science types, however, that like to maintain that such evidence, even when collected by people like the Inuit... continue reading

09.27.2006

The Best Italian Wines: Announcing The 2007 Tre Bicchieri

There are very few awards for that mean anything in this modern age we live in. There are so many different judging bodies and associations that most of them are marginalized before they even begin. I've lost my faith in most of them, and some, like the Oscars®, I gave up on decades ago. The Nobel prize, the Pulitzer, the Pritker prize for architecture -- there are only a few that I think cling to respectability in an age of meaningless popularity contests. One more that I might be tempted to add to the list, and the only one in... continue reading

09.25.2006

Now Where Did I Leave That Bottle?

Red wine is good for everything. But you already knew that. If you read this blog only more than once every two years you will have seen the constant breakthroughs in medical research showing just how amazingly healthy red wine is for all of us. In case you have forgotten, feel free to check out the list that I stopped compiling because it was just getting too long. What I want to know is why are there so many scientists out there who one day just decide to study red wine? It's not as if there is some endowment from... continue reading

09.22.2006

The First Sommelier Pope

I don't know about you, but I get spam all the time telling me that my MBA, PHD, or other advanced degree is just a click of the mouse (and $99.95) away. I've never understood the idea of an honorary degree either, except for those folks like Einstein who are clearly such geniuses that they'd never get anything out of a university where they're smarter than all the professors. Sure, you might as well give them a PhD. But for the normal world, the conferring of honorary degrees has always seemed a bit like institutional ass-kissing to me. Or should... continue reading

09.07.2006

The 2006 St. Emilion Classification Released

Every ten years, a cabal of wine officials gets together to decide who is good, who is better, and who is best in a little town on the North side of the Dordogne River in the Bordeaux region of France. The "Right Bank" as it is affectionately known, is home to the town and appellation of Saint Emilion, which today was "reclassified" to determine the best wine estates in the appellation. Way back in the 19th century, a slightly crustier and secretive cabal of wine industry mavens got together and created the famous Classification of 1855 which defined for the... continue reading

09.02.2006

Make Sure That Wine Is Real...

....before you spend half a million dollars on it. File this under "problems we would all like to have." Florida millionaire Bill Koch was very excited 18 years ago. He had gotten his hands on a couple of dusty bottles with the initials "TH.J" engraved on them. Discovered in the cellar of a wealthy old wine family in Paris, the bottles were auctioned off as wine made for the library of none other than Thomas Jefferson, who had a habit of ordering French wine directly from producers. Koch proudly added the bottles to his 35,000 bottle cellar. But then doubts... continue reading

08.26.2006

Why Sometimes It's Good To Be a Winegrower

How does this sound to you? If you're a winegrower anywhere in the United States you can donate your vineyards to a local land trust (a non-profit organization dedicated to keeping land free from commercial development) before January 1, 2007, continue to work the land for as long as you and your heirs want to, all the while deducting potentially up to 100% of your Adjustable Gross Income from your taxes for the next fifteen years. Yes, that's right. Make a commitment that your vineyard will never be turned into condos or a luxury resort and potentially you can pay... continue reading

08.21.2006

The Benefits of Socialized Medicine

I really enjoyed the time I spent in England as an exchange student during college. I fit pretty well into the culture there despite my extreme aversion to Black and Tans and the occasional pair of white socks which marked me as a clear Yank. I have fond memories of lots of things, including my only run-in with the British medical system, which made treatment for a set of infected, recently removed wisdom teeth both literally and figuratively painless. Not to mention, completely free. While I know all sorts of problems exist with the current system, including many people having... continue reading

But Wait, There's More!

This page only has the last sixty entries in this category. If you're interested in digging farther into my archives, you'll want to use the complete list of archives to access my articles by month.

Calendar of Postings

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Most Recent Entries

Another Idiotic California Law Screws Wineries The Fake Tongue Illusion and Wine Tasting Tallying the Damage from the Napa Quake Earthquake Rattles Napa Harvest NIMBY Versus Vineyard in Malibu Time For The World's Best Prison Wine Taking Celebrity Wine to the Next Level Will Climate Change be the Death of Cork? Are You a Red, Pink or a Purple Wine Stater? Journalists Banned from Tasting Domaine Huet Wines

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) the Finger 1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais, Burgundy Wine Over Time The Better Half of My Palate 1999 Királyudvar "Lapis" Tokaji Furmint, Hungary What's Allowed in Your Wine and Winemaking Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Appreciating Wine in Context The Soul vs. The Market 1989 Fiorano Botte 48 Semillion,Italy

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.