Sunday, December 31, 2006

2007....A Great Vintage for Wine!

Another year has come and gone and we will be bringing in the year 2007 with a Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial . It has been a turbulent year in the world of wine, what with acquisitions and continued grape gluts and all. Neo-prohibitionists not withstanding wine is rapidly becoming part of our culture. Just think where the wine industry in North America would be today if prohibition had never occurred. Then of course we have certain well meaning religious groups claiming the wine in the bible was just grape juice. Grapes and grape juice contain natural yeasts and without refrigeration or adequate sulfite levels it is pretty much impossible to prevent fermentation. I speak from personal experience when at one time I had purchased a five gallon pail of refrigerated Zinfandel juice from California. I kept it in a storage area overnight to begin the wine making process the next day. When I went to remove the lid it blew off with a spray of foamy, fermenting juice.

I believe 2007 will be an exciting year in the world of wine. You won't find me writing about a particular wine I might just have had the pleasure of tasting. What's the point. You probably wouldn't find it in your neck of the woods. Speaking of woods, that wish bone peace of wood in the picture was retrieved from my driveway after a recent winter storm. And of course the real wish bone is from our incredibly delicious free range Christmas turkey. My wish for all of you is, that you will have a happy, healthy and succesful 2007.
There will be many more entertaining and educational websites coming on stream. One web site that is leading the charge to educating North Americans about our wines is Appellation America.com. Be sure to bookmark it, if you haven't already done so. An amazing amount of info available on this site. Wineries as well will have increasingly informative and entertaining web sites. Check this one from Bodegas Castano, as well as the Moet & Chandon site above.
I leave you on this New Year's Eve with a quote from
the American playwright, Elmer Rice.
" You can have too much champagne to drink but you can never have enough."

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Peace on Earth .....Goodwill to men!


Glory be! We made it through Christmas without any major turmoil or disasters around the globe. Peace however was disturbed in the world of resveratrol. With all the good news out there about this magical element found in red grapes there was bound to be some conflict. In my November 1, 2006 blog entry titled Hickory Dickery Dock I mentioned the potential problem of a big rush to produce this in tablet form. Science writer David Bradley in his comment on resveratrol, posted on that entry, echoed th e same concern. Now two companies producing resveratrol are going head to head. Apart from this nasty scenario by two competing companies attempting to cash in on the resveratrol hype, it points to the need to deal with archaic internet laws.
Recently another player came on the scene attempting to capitalize on the resveratrol phenomenon. According to the Guelph Food Technology Centre, this grape flour has great potential. I had some concerns and attempted to make contact with Mark Marpole at Vinifera for Life. After my initial contact I was promised that my questions would be answered when time allowed. Two more tries and still no response. Following are the questions I asked Mark Walpole regarding the grape flour.

1. Did your product require some regulatory testing before being approved?
2. To obtain a steady supply of grape skins, you will be depending on a good number of wineries, potentially with different viticultural practices, to suply your need for grape skins. Pesticides and fungicides, especially in Ontario's humid climate, may be used at higher levels than in other wine regions. Are there any concerns about this, either by yourself or any regulatory agencies?
3. Varying levels of sulfites are intially added to control bacterial spoilage or to kill off wild yeasts. These sulfites would still potentially be present on the skins used for your product. Is there any concern about this, especially for people with sulfite sensitivities?
Seems like fairly reasonable questions. Those questions were posed on the 23rd of November. No answers yet.
So click on the picture with my dog Maddie and my glass of wine and here is my take on it. I was enjoying wines before the French Paradox hit the 60 minutes tv show. Underline enjoying. All this resveratrol hype has seen an increase in red wine consumption. Good so far. But if that is why you are drinking red wine, you are missing what drinking wine is all about. Wine deserves to be drunk for the pure pleasure it can give. Any health benefits should just be considered a bonus. Let me raise my glass in a toast to wine and to all of you visiting my blog.
Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all people everywhere!


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Wine Marketing...French Style!


A crackdown on drinking drivers, reduced consumption of wine by the French, competition from New World wines, over production and a preference by 92 per cent of French consumers under 25, for other alcoholic drinks has created major problems for the wine industry in France. In a country steeped in history and culture revolving around wine, it has lawmakers proposing legislation that among other things would see youngsters in school taught about the glories of French wine. (please click on the pictures for larger images of some of that French fame)
I believe a program such as this proposal before the French legislature has some real merit. Not because I think it is a good
marketing tool but rather that it gives the educational system an opportunity to teach youngsters about moderation in drinking and the health benefits of drinking wine.
In the meantime "crisis distillation" is still a major headache for the EU. But perhaps the French government should come up with an educational program for those unruly South of France winemakers. Things are heating up again and the more radical elements of the Winemaker's Regional Action Committee (CRAV) are ready to take their fight to the streets again.

Let me end with a toast to the French and à votre santé, mon ami!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

British Columbia picks grapes for Icewines!!



A sudden cold snap in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley, the home of some of the best Icewines in the world and vintners were taking advantage of the early frosts to pick the grapes for the 2006 harvest. I was looking for some global warming experts to get them to explain the more than two feet of snow that got dumped on our usually mild and snowless Vancouver Island. I could not find any of them. Maybe they were buried in the snow.The rosebud in the vase is posing on my sundeck railing along with the unexpected frosty precipitation.
In a direct communication with the world renowned expert on Icewine, John Schreiner, and I quote: "Any vintner that failed to pick icewine grapes this year should not be in the business. It was magnificently cold for three or four days … not just nights, but days. It was possible to pick in the day and I imagine most did. " and "the 2006 icewine vintage will be outstanding because it was early, when the grapes were full of healthy fruity flavours..... bursting with fruit character of an early freeze wine." John's book entitled simply "Icewine" is the ultimate book on Icewine. Follow this link to get John's perspective on the 2006 vintage. One of my favourite BC wineries is Tinhorn Creek. They produce the only Kerner Icewine in Canada. Lush and flavourful, its one of my favorites. I expect their Icewine and many of the BC Icewines to walk away with multiple medals when they are released. Try and get some and you will taste what God must be drinking from Icewine Paradise here on earth.









Sunday, November 26, 2006

Wine Marketing...which way is up?




In june of 2005, the CRAV ( the Regional Committee on Viticultural Action) took their fight to the streets in the South of France. The problem? An oversupply of grapes and wine. Was their a method in their madness? Not really, a year and a half later the problem still exists. But now there is a glimmer of hope. After 10 years of meetings by various commissions a proposal has been brought forward that would unite all of Languedoc's AOC's as well as the neighbouring Rousillon region. Now that is smart marketing. Placing a whole region under one banner and promoting it as such. However this raises some concern by some of the smaller up and coming wine areas. The plan is for the new AOC Languedoc to be in place in 2008. That is the plan... I don't see it happening all that soon. French governing bodies tend to drag their feet a bit.
A continent away, in the Central Valley of California, a different approach is now in effect.
The town of Tracy in San Joaquin County has now been put on the AVA map. Not happy about being lumped together under the California label, a determined Jeff Brown spend 6 years and $60,000 to convince the ATF ( Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms ) to allow the creation of the newest AVA in California. So which is the right way to go? Produce the best wine possible and you will create a market and loyal following. Congratulations to Tracy Hills and Good Luck to Languedoc!!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Wine Beef Burgers......and other fantasies!

Not satisfied with the flavor of your beef?
Well then, why not specify your steaks have to come from wine fed beef? It is reported that the cattle seemed to like the addition of wine to their feed and that they gained weight. This mind you, was based merely on the observation that they were eating more. Well of course! Wine is an appetite stimulant and can aid in the resorption of ingested food and increase the caloric intake.
No wonder they put on weight.
Maybe we are not doing them a favor and perhaps this is an animal welfare issue.
So what is next?
A demand for Pinot Plum or Merlot Mango flavored yoghurts? The headlines will read "Happy dairy cows eager to share their milk". Or how about Chardonnay scrambled eggs? Then of course we will probably be able to look forward to Pinot Gris pork products. Perhaps this over-indulgence is getting out of hand.
The picture of the vineyard with the bird netting was taken at the Blue Grouse Vineyards on Vancouver Island. Obviously it is to keep the birds out and that is a good thing. But the second picture shows a starving child with no protection from any birds, especially vulturous ones. Should make you think. At this time of the year I always get a little sad when I think of all my blessings and the countless people, especially children, who are not nearly as fortunate as I am. So when I read about this over-the-top procedure just to get your beef steaks kicked up a notch, I have to shake my head and wonder. So this holiday season, be kind and be generous to those less fortunate around you. Take care of those you love, including your pets and yes do take time to enjoy the fruit of the vine! As well, this is the Remembrance day week-end. Let us take a moment to remember all those hero soldiers who gave up their lives, so that we might continue to live in the freedom we treasure so much.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Hickory Dickory Dock......


The mouse ran up the clock.The clock struck one,The mouse ran down!Hickory Dickory Dock.
And what did the mouse do when he got down?
He ate some cheese and had a glass of wine. And here is to a happy and long life, eating what you want and making sure you get your daily dose of resveratrol. Click on the pic and join me once again to toast to our good health!
Then of course there is another recent discovery about resveratrol. And that is.... and that is...... hmm I forgot. Oh yes go to the end of this article and follow the link to the report on Alzheimer's disesase. Perhaps one word of caution. With all the data coming in on the benefits of resveratrol there is bound to be a rush on to produce a tablet or liquid claiming to be"your best source and highest level of resveratrol". Give us this day our daily bread ... and our daily glass of wine of course and that will be my source of resveratrol for now. I give thanks to all those wonderful winemakers out there who are keeping me happy and healthy.
Cheers!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Toasting your health again!!

As if we needed another reason to drink a glass of wine, researchers have found yet another beneficial effect of consuming red wine.
Resveratrol, a polyhenol with powerful anti-oxidant effects is once again in the limelight. Resveratrol levels are highest in red wines and of the red grape varieties, Pinot Noir has markedly
higher concentrations than other varietals. The movie "Sideways" kicked up Pinot Noir sales a notch or two. Now we have a good healthy reason to increase our Pinot consumption.
If you click on the picture and enlarge the image, I swear that you will see smily faces on the grapes. These Pinot grapes, grown at the Blue
Grouse Vineyards on Vancouver Island were already over 26 Brix and a week away from harvest. Should produce a healthy tonic.
The latest research now indicates red wine reduces risks of colon cancer. The list is growing and I am happy to have another reason to continue my adventure with the fruit of the vine.
It is interesting to note that with the many healthful benefits derived from wine that governments on both sides of the Atlantic, insist on adding mandatory health warnings on labels.
Another slam against wine, but not too hard. Bureaucrats are always mindful of all that wonderful tax money flowing into government coffers. I say reduce taxes on wine and thereby making wine more affordable for the average consumer. This will improve the nation's health, thus reducing costly medical care and the need for all those tax dollars.
I think Thomas Jefferson said it best when he was quoted as follows: "I think it is a great error to consider a heavy tax on wines as a tax on luxury. On the contrary, it is a tax on the health of our citizens. " Are there any forward thinking politicians like that around today? Of course not, its not "politically correct". Enjoy your glass of red wine in good health.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Who's on First.......


Definitely not China. The Chinese are using recently discovered archaeological findings to claim they were the first country to produce wines. This claim was based upon finding a 9000 year old wine made from rice, honey and fruit.
Now I don't know anything about archaeology but I do know that rice makes sake and honey makes meade.
Looking at various sources including Wikepedia, wine is the " alcoholic fermented juice of fresh grapes used as a beverage" Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary Or the Biology-Online definition of wine, again grapes and fruit are mentioned but not rice or honey. So who was first?
There is evidence that the first wines were made in Georgia. Other claims indicate Iran was the origin of wine.
If a tree falls in the forrest, does anybody hear? Or for that matter does anybody care?
I am making another claim. The ancient Roman earthen vessel pictured here (and feel free to click on the picture to see the finer details) was uncovered in a vineyard in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. This proves that before the Romans planted vineyards in France and the rest of the Roman Empire, they took a detour and made wine in Canada. Well OK, I was just having some fun with my camera in my backyard. Just goes to show you, you can't believe everything you read and here is an example.


In this news release "Israel's Galilee offers world's first pomegranate wine". So in 2003 they made their first Pomegranate wine.
Funny thing is that last year, I tasted the 2001 Pomegranate Wine made by Paradis an Armenian winery. When you visit this site click on products, then click fine wine & spirits and scroll down to the bottom (or click on the picture on the left) and you will find the description of this wonderful and lush dessert wine. Paradis has been making it since the year 2000.
Amazing, claims and counter claims. I am now going to enjoy a glass or two of a 2003 Cusumano Nero D'Avola from Sicily. What a great wine! They have been making wine on this island for a long time and are not too concerned with who made the first wine, just how to enjoy it on a daily basis. Ciao!!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Its a Corker....!

Just when screwcaps' march across the wine world seemed unstoppable ( stopperable..get it?) cork is fighting back. Before I get into that, glass stoppers seem to be on an invasion all of their own into the closure battle and doing well. But cork enthusiasts received a little boost when the Australian Wine Research Institute released test results confirming the Australian membrane cork"ProCork" is the best performing wine bottle closure.The study revealed that the lack of permeability of screwcap closures makes wine susceptible to a chemical reaction known as reduction. During intervals of 12, 18, 24, 30 and 36 months, ProCork outperformed other closures, in its ability to retain and enhance the quality of wine.

The ProCork technology involves the application of thin membranes to each end of the cork. ProCork is making inroads into the European market where it has been used for over a year.

But wait a minute, is it the best cork closure? Not according to the makers of the "Diam" closure. Diamant was developedby Oeneo, a French closure company and the French Atomic Energy Commission. High powered stuff there.
So just when I was getting used to the snappy crack when opening a bottle with a screwcap, cork is bouncing back. No real surprise there.
Interesting to note that Oeno is covering all basis and that their line up of closures includes
srewcaps.

So for now, I won't put my favourite corkscrew away just yet. How long before we will have the next best closure making its debut? I think while I am pondering that, I will have a glass of wine, red wine of course. It feels like fall and there is a chill in the air.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Bottle Shock...!

Are you ready for the next evolution in wine bottles? Way back when....... wine was bottled in leather or pottery. Although" bottled " would not have been the term of the day.I could handle pottery, but leather? Come to think of it, I drank a few bottles at college football games out of my Spanish leather Bota bag. But of course the modern version has a plastic lining. It must have been a stunning advancement to serve wine from the first glass bottles. That would have been an easy sell when they were introduced around 1600 AD.



Now we are into the next generation of bottling wine. Plastic that is. The problem with PET( polyethylene terephthalate) as with all plastic, is to keep oxygen out of the bottle. And we all know what O2 does to your wine. Constar, a US company, has developed a product that can be added to PET to effectively bind oxygen and thus solving that problem. Light in weight and virtually indestructible, plastic bottles do have some advantages. I was just getting used to screwcaps but my wine in plastic? Wolf Blass with their yellow label, pictured here, apparently has no problem. But hold on, if weight reduction to lower shipping costs and save energy is the issue then how about this approach? Lightweight bottles, weighing in at 300g instead of the 500g for a standard wine bottle is now used in Britain. "Constellation Brands will assess the feasibility of bottling more wine in the UK using lightweight bottles" Wouldn't you know it? Assess the feasibilty? Constellation is the number one producer and marketer of wine in the world and cutting costs is part of their succes. So you wonder if the environmental issue is just a good way to increase profits. Just how much of this cost saving will be passed on to us, the consumer? I'll just keep pulling corks out of one of my cellared, bottled in real glass, wine for now.






Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Future is Almost Here...!







So my little Robot friend, tell me what grapes are those on my backyard vines?

In my previous post on Wine Critics etc., I was under the impression that we would be looking for these little creatures to show up in 4 to 5 years.It now seems that wine robots will become a reality much sooner than first anticipated.Endo and his research team are looking for someone to bring them to market now. Sounds good to me, but I still want to wait for the little hand held edition I pictured in my previous blog. I can't quite see myself carrying a little robot to my tastings. So in the meantime can anyone identify the grapes in my backyard vineyard? Well guess what? I am having a blast with my new camera and those are table grapes I bought at the supermarket and then hung on my vines.Anything to show off my pictures. Initial reports show we are in for another good harvest around the globe. So no shortage of good wines coming up. Happy drinking and in the meantime Mr. Endo may I suggest you get in touch with Rockstar Marketing.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

To Your Health....!!!

It is white wine's turn in the limelight for healthful benefits.
Be sure to click on the image and enlarge it to see how white wine can reflect the fragrance of flowers, the freshness of a bright spring morning and the intensity of a glorious summer day.
"Wine is the most healthful and hygienic of beverages" Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), French scientist

"I think a tax on wine, is a tax on the health of our citizens" Thomas Jefferson

Only when the television news magazine "60 Minutes" reported in November, 1991, the phenomenon that has come to be known as the French Paradox, did popular thinking of wine as medicine rather than toxin begin to return. Typically, the diet of people in Southern France includes a very high proportion of cheese, butter, eggs, organ meats, and other fatty and cholesterol-laden foods. This diet would seem to promote heart disease, but the rate there was discovered to be much lower than in America; herein lies the paradox. But red wines suddenly were the latest way to a healthy life style. A significant amount of research since then has shown the benefit of consuming red wine in particular.
It was the advent of modern medicine, especially the discovery of penicillin and subsequent other antibiotics that put wine on the back shelves as a medical treatment. Hippocrates , the "Father of Medicine" around 400 B.C. in his Corpus Hippocraticum, showed how wine played a significant role in these treatises of antique medicine. The largest pharmacological work of antiquity was written by a Greek army surgeon,Pedanius Dioscorides, in the service of the Roman emperor Nero. De Materia Medica consisted of five volumes and was written in the first century A.D. Both of these extensive works remained authorative for western medicine for almost a thousand years.
Now the latest research tells us that lovers of white wine no longer have to worry about not getting the healthful benefits that their red wine drinking friends have been enjoying.
All I can say to that is "A votre sante", "Salud", "Prosit", "Noroc", "Campai" and "Noroc"or in any other language I raise my glass and here is to your good health.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A WORLD WITHOUT WINE CRITICS....and WRITERS!!


At last, be your own critic and be right every time. Forget the point systems. Wine lovers everywhere will be able to do on the spot computerized tastings and find the wines they like without actually consuming them. Sounds like some fictional, futuristic dreaming? Its closer than you think. I am in possesion of a personal prototype. The picture you see of the handheld computerized tasting tongue has only been altered slightly to protect the .....well the wild imagination of some dreamers like myself.

Have we not all wondered how come we can't detect that hint of bacon wrapped baked pear on the nose? Or tasted that kiwi tinged streak of lime marinated mango? Please, will someone tell me how you do that?

"Human sensory tests are regularly employed in the food and beverages industries, but results are based on subjective judgements and variations between panels can be up to 50 per cent in terms of flavour units. Therefore, the development of 'objective' tools to detect taste is very much needed," said the researchers in a joint UK-Us venture. Wow, 50% folks, that is enough to make you wonder whether what you read or hear about a wine is really what you'll experience when you attempt to taste the wine yourself. This scientific approach is based on surface acoustic wave (SAW) sensors.Imagine dipping your little probe into a glass of wine with a predetermined taste profile set to your own preferences.
Meanwhile another group of scientists have figure out how we perceive all that crisp sour ( acid in wine of course)
Japanese researchers not to be outdone, have produced a robot that will tell you what grapes are in your wine. Aha!! I thought I could detect Viognier in that Shiraz.
Now if the ladies and gentlemen of the scientific community could all get together, pool their knowledge and come up with my futuristic handheld computerized tongue, I can go to the next big tasting of 100+ wines, set my parameters and I'll be able to pick my winners in no time at all. Then of course I can get to some serious tasting. One day soon I will wake up from my dream and read in my favourite wine column ( my own perhaps), that the future is here. The fully loaded models will of course allow you to listen to your music, take pictures and will have a cell phone component. But wait....not to open another can of worms, but the Aussies think they have the answer and have come up with another sniffer. So now you will have a choice, your PPPP (Personally Programmed Proboscis Probe) or your PPPW (Personal Pack of Pet Worms)
In the meantime lest we forget, the best wine is still the wine that you like.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Greedy and the Greedier!

I have always been under the impression that wine was a gift from God and that a talented winemaker would take the fruit of the vine and create one of life's greatest pleasures. Good food, good wine and good company. Is there anything better?

At the wedding feast in Cana everyone had a blast and to top it all, the price of the wine was great.
"It was such a wonderful wedding feast! The music, the dancing, the food and wine."
Everyone ate, drank and was merry.
And up untill the 1970's some of the greatest French wines could still be bought at reasonable prices.

Then along came Parker and his 100 point rating system. His proclamation on the 1982 vintage
not only put him in the wine world limelight but also started a significant increase in wine prices. Any one lucky enough to have him review and rate a wine 90+. was on their way to wealth and fame. But even Robert is getting a little uncomfortable with the greed displayed by the Bordeaux elite. There seems to be no sanity in the outrageous prices top chateau are demanding for their 2005 vintage wines. Chateau Petrus has smashed all records. Who in their right mind would pay 1600 EUR or 2012 US dollars for a single bottle of the 2005 Petrus? Now if you are between 30 and 40 years of age, you'll probably live long enough to enjoy it. But if you are 50, 60 and up, chances are you might not be around when it finally finishes aging. Seems a little crazy to pay this much for a wine you won't be around to enjoy. But if you are buying it just so you can make the big bucks..... well I guess greed could be a factor at play. But all good things eventually come to an end. At the lower end of the Bordeaux wine spectrum things aren't going too well. Too much wine, and talk about crazy prices. Good for the consumer? Not really. These extreme price variations will hurt a lot of good people who are just using their God given talents to bring us the fruit of the vine, the fruit of their hard labour.
" Wine: soil, sun, rain, and the hand of man."
Author Unknown


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Global Warming Update.

This is what excessive heat can do to vines and soil. Also in my previous post I forgot to link to the article on global warming for those really into the scene. So here it is this time. I guess the heat is getting to me. Enjoy the summer!


Global Warming Gives Greenland Grape Growers...a golden opportunity to produce medal winning wines!


Glolbal warming is raising hopes for British wine makers to produce world class red wines.
Hotter weather boosts British red wine!
"British red wines could soon be competing with the finest French clarets as global warming leads to perfect growing conditions in southern England". According to UK NEWS English vineyards are benefitting from new higher summertime temperatures. But then a thousand years ago Europe was enjoying warm temperatures and grapes were thriving in British vineyards. (click on the cool wheather grapes picture I took in Alsace to enlarge it and see what soon may become a good grape,Gewurztraminer, for colder climates.) It takes years to develop a new grape varietal. New York State's Cornell University has recently released three new wine grapes ideal for their harsh winter conditions. But it takes decades to produce new suitable varietals. Spanish vintners on the other hand are becoming concerned with the new warming trends and wineries may move into the cooler Pyrenees. Similarly California vintners are showing concern. Since vines can be productive for well over fifty years, new varieties need to be developd for these hotter grape growing regions. Better grapes for New York, better grapes for California, lets see.... perhaps its time to pick up some cheap acreages in Greenland. For those who are deep into the pros and cons of global warming have a look at this (albeit lenghthy and possibly dated) report.

Friday, June 30, 2006

No Screwcap for this Big Beautiful Bottle...of wine!!


The debate about which is the best bottle closure continues. But you wont find a screwcap on this Nebuchadnezzar sized botle anytime soon.

In a recent extensive survey by Wine Business Monthly, it was found not surprisingly, that natural cork remains the closure of choice but screw caps are reaching parity with other alternatives. The oxidative quality of cork and the possible reductive potential of screwcaps continue to be an issue wine makers struggle with.

Eventhough screwcaps have become much more acceptible by the wine consuming public in North America, it is still not the closure of choice in most European wine regions. A smart new way to stopper a wine bottle that is making inroads is the ZORK closure from Australia. ZORK is a revolutionary new wine closure that seals like a screw cap and pops like a cork. An interesting video on the Zork closure can be seen at this site. A delightful Cabernet Sauvignon under Zork is the Red Knot Cabernet Sauvignon 2004.
The good thing of course is that when all this closure problem is sorted out we'll find that there will be a host of new and effective ways to close our favourite wines. In the meantime as Jancis Robinson, one of my favourite wine writers, states "I feel sure we are far from throwing away our corkscrews."

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Global Grape Glut continues to be a problem....



Please click on globe to get larger image.

Australia is suffering from an overproduction and growers fear the worst. The great glut is lowering wine prices and is even affecting New Zealand markets. The continued over production in Europe has created an estimated 1.5bn litres of surplus wines. The European comision has dished out millions of Euros bailing out the industry by converting unsold wine into industrial alcohol. It is expected that over 500 million litres of excess wine will be converted to bio-fuel. Sweeping changes, which will include ripping out vineyards are on the horizon. Years of huge production subsidies has created an imbalance between EU wine supply and demand creating excessive surpluses that could not be readily sold. A major shake-up is required.

Australian growers had hoped for a $60 million sbsidy plan but agriculture minister Peter McGauran rejected any bailout for struggling growers or winemakers. Similarly no plan to convert excess wine into ethanol is contemplated. Consumers are celebrating low prices while they last. New markets are needed and Australia may have found help in the new emerging affluent middle class in China. Extensive vineyard plantings in China and India may be the next contributor to another world glut. In the meantime smart marketing but above all good quality wine production is the key to success in getting attention from wine consumers around the globe. As always there is so much good wine and so little time. But I am trying my best. Cheers.

Monday, June 05, 2006

King Tut to Tetra Pak...!!










King Tut was a tippler and it turns out he liked white wines.
( Most pictures in my blog can be enlarged by clicking on the images. Try clicking on Maddie in my previous blog and you'll see what I mean )

According to researchers at the University of Spain in Barcelona, a research team discovered amphoras believed to have contained white wine. King Tut was sent off to the hereafter with both white and red wines. Wine amphora and wine scenes as pictured above have been found in Egyptian tombs as far back as 3150 BC.
Fast forward about 5000 years and we arrive at BIB's (Bag in the Box or as the Aussies call them Chateau Cardboard)
Wine companies such as Boisset from France and the Centerra wine company with the Vendange series from California claim to be having a measure of success in traditional markets. But really now, BIBS and Tetras might be fun and great for the patio and out among the Ponderosa pines, but would you really bring them out and plunk them on the dinner table while serving an elegant dinner for your guests, or with your Christmas and Easter dinners ? Do I hear dissenting voices? On the positive side, read Nick Lees article in Canada's Wine Access Magazine about the quality of boxed wines.
Help may be on its way, if you like your wine in a bottle . A UK mineral water company has launched the first biodegradable bottle. Now you won't even have to take those bottles back for a refund. They'll self destruct in no time. Of course mineral water and wine are quit different in their chemical composition. It remains to be seen whether the problem of the acidic nature of wine prematurely dissolving your bottle can be overcome. You wouldn't want that to happen before the wine has had a chance to age at least 3 months. What's next? Its summer, enjoy your wine in whatever vessel you prefer.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Maddie not mad about grapes!











Just a message and a reminder from Maddie:
Please no raisins or grapes for all my dog friends out there. The exact cause is not known but some dogs can definitely die from acute renal failure after ingesting grapes and raisins. So all you vintners out there please remember come harvest time not to let your pets get into those luscious grapes. To the rest of us who enjoy the fruit of the vine in its fermented form Maddie says "enjoy", but don't give me and my friends those wonderful sweet temptations. Cheers everyone!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Empires Come and ....Go








As promised in my last posting, we'll cover Emperor parker. I am sitting here with two recently acquired books. One is Hugh Johnson A Life Uncorked. The second one is Elin McCoy's The Emperor of Wine. Lets start with a well known fact that drinking and tasting wine is all very subjective. What Parker likes is not necessarily your or my cup of tea (or in this case ....glass of wine). The recent transAtlantic battle between Parker and Jancis Robinson proves that point once again. Jancis Robinson called the 2003 Château Pavie "a ridiculous wine". Parker loved the wine and thereby questioned her integrity. It is Parker's rating system that is creating all the buzz. Quoting from Hugh Johnson's " A Life Un corked, "If I missed the point of what Robert Parker was trying to do with his percentages of perfection, I made a mistake. To me his numbers game was simply irrelevant. He could score away as he liked, and I could enjoy my wine untroubled. It took years for the realization to dawn that his scoring was influencing the way wines were being made. He, of course, would say for the better. We have different tastes."
Parker has thoroughly ruffled the British wine press' feathers.
Sommeliers in all the finest restaurants do not have a great love for Parker Points. Says Eugenenio Jardin of San Francisco's "Jardiniere" ... "I tell a customer who says, 'Why don't you carry this Parker 100-point wine?' that if I serve you a wine you don't like, I'll be right here to talk about it. But if I serve a wine that Parker loves and you don't like it, I won't be able to get him on the phone for you." The power of Parker points are demonstrated in this slighlly altered Bob Johnson's cartoon shown above.
And how about Parker's recent sojourn into judging "star" wines. "Parker insists that when he used “opulent and luscious”, he was referring to the wine, not the star. OK,what about that Italian winemaker Roberto Cipresso. A very respected winemaker going into business with Savanna Samson. Formerly a papal vintner and now making wine with an American pornstar. Now let me see 1.1 billion Catholics or Parker Points porn star. I think I would stick with the papal crowd. I think the "Emperor" is slipping in the ratings. My favourite all time Emperor is still Moet & Chandon's biggest fan, The Emperor Napoleon himself. And you wondered what that picture at the top of this entry was all about? Well now you know. Empires come and go. Good luck Mr. Parker.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Labels sell wine!!



Especially when they show cuddly, feathery or other critter creatures. Sales of "critter " label wines have seen dramatic increases over the past five years. When a critter is on the label, Americans buy a new wine twice as often as the competition, according to the marketing information company ACNielsen. This whole phenomenon started with the introduction of Australia's [yellow tail] Even Robert Parker has good things to say about this success story from down under. (More about Mr. Parker in my next blog entry.) Last year 7.5 million cases were sold in the US alone. Jon Fredrikson, a California wine industry consultant, calls it "the perfect wine for a public grown up on soft drinks." All the more remarkable when you consider America's love affair with white zinfandel: 35 percent of US consumers drink this wine, accounting for sales of twenty-one million cases last year. But the trend is changing as the American palate matures. According to AC Nielsen, sales of Pinot Grigio ( Pinot Gris) increased 18.6 percent last year. Pinot Gris is predicted to surpass white zinfandel as the fourth-largest varietal in just two years.
It is also predicted that by 2009, the US will become the largest wine consuming country in the world. Italy will remain in second place and France is expected to fall from first to third spot. A number of factors account for this increased consumption of wine in North America. An increased awareness of the health benefits from moderate drinking as well as the fact that wine is becoming much more a part of our culture. There is a keen interest in anything relating to wine. Wine tourism, along with culinary tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry.
For "critter" labels to be effective, the wine in the bottle has to be at least consumable. No one will buy the wine again, if it isn't at least good. Yellow tail delivers more wine than the price would indicate. Not great, but it satisfies the fruity style that Americans have grown to like. There are actually some "critter" label wines that are quite exceptional.
Venturi- Schulze Vineyards on Vancouver Island has a remarkable wine behind a different kind of critter label(shown at the top of this post). Not only is this an outstanding Champagne method wine but it also answers the question of which came first: The chicken or the egg. There is no doubt that it was the Grape that came first. The label was created by Cowichan Valley artist Angela Beltane. This fresh, lively, sparkling wine is made from Siegerrebe and Madeleine Angevine. It is named for the mix of small and large grapes in the Siegerrebe bunches.
How long will critter label wines stay popular? Anybody's guess. But I think only long enough for the next fad to come onto the marketing scene
Happy drinking and don't forget to pet your pet.







Saturday, April 01, 2006

Wine, wine everywhere.... and too many drops to drink!

The world of wine is in a turmoil. Competition around the world is changing how governments, wine organizations and vintners think about how to compete in an ever-expanding wine market. The wine glut discussed in a previous post, has resulted in a variety of responses. To complicate matters, scientists will soon be able to genetically manipulate grapes. This will not only affect the quality of grapes but also their production levels. And how will that impact the influence of "terroir"? Will it give the big corporate wine companies an increased stonghold on the world wine markets? Scientists at the San Michelle all"Adige institute in Trentino have begun mapping the genetic make up of the Pinot Noir grape. Once the genome project is complete, alteration of the grape's genetic make up will become a reality. At the University of California, Davies, researchers are looking at ways to make wines an even more healthful drink by genetically altering grapes to increase their vitamin C content.
Meanwhile the EU is bowing to US demands to allow wines finished with oak chips to be sold in Europe. It is eassy to understand why. US wine exports to the EU were worth $325 million in 2005, while EU exports to the US were valued at 2.6 billion. The market is dictating what is acceptable and the EU is now allowing the use of oak chips. The French government has created quite a stir among traditionalists everywhere by legislating the use of oak chips. Just to add another wrinkle to wine sale worries, China's Changyu Group Co.,the oldest and largest wine producer in China has set its sites on becoming one of the top ten international producers in the next decade. Well there is another way of dealing with the competition. Just close your borders. Russia has effectively done that with wines coming from Georgia and Moldova. Is this a new form of cold war? This seems to be a politically motivated event and understandably Georgia and Moldova are outraged. Is the Russian Bear just rattling its saber or will sanity prevail?
Ultimately, quality is where it will be at. Germany is using a quality, as well as innovation approach. A new glass stopper is attracting some attention. Spain as well is clamouring about quality and some excellent wines from Spain are now available. Just to keep the cork versus other closures debate going, Spain has just legislated that all DO wines have to be stoppered with a real cork.
As the old hymn implores us "Let there be Peace in the Valley", all the great grape valleys in the world. Its time for me to open a bottle of wine, grab my favourite glass and partake of "the fruit of the vine". As Galileo said: "Wine is light, held together by water". And I am ready to enjoy one of the lights of my life. Till next time and remember: God in His goodness sent the grapes, to cheer both great and small; little fools will drink too much, and great fools none at all.-Anonymous.

Friday, January 20, 2006

WINE and CHEESE!! ....IS THERE ANYTHING BETTER?..When did this wine and cheese party fad begin? In the early 90's I believe. Did you ever go to a gathering where the cheese actually matched the wines? Not likely. At most of these affairs you would see the inevitable trays with cheese slices dutifully arranged with the requisite number of olives and other eye catching condiments. Of course then we became more sophisticated and experts from around the world made recommendtions on what cheese really goes well with a particular wine or the other way around what wine should you serve with that exquisite cheese you carefully selected at your favourite cheese shop. For me that would be Carmen's place on Foul Bay road in Victoria.
Back inOctober of 2005 a distinguished goup of foodies and wine tasters were brought together by Marjorie King at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland BC. The results were published in no less a distinguished scientific publication than the Journal of Food Quality.So there it was.
http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/press/pressitem.asp?ref=535 Now we can go forward, confident in the knowledge that experts are giving us the scientific information we so much needed before making those critical wine and cheese purchases. I was thrilled to find out there was a cheese and wine heaven. But wait... whats this?
Another proclamation by another distinguished panel What are we to do now? Don't know about you but I sure love it when I do get that wine and cheese match that is a delight to the palate. Port and Stilton? Of course its a winner. Recently I tasted a Blue Gouda that was just divine with the 2001 Tradizione del Nonno Primitivo di Manturia. It is a huge, robust and fruity wine with a velvety smooth finish. At 16% alcohol it has a Port like quality. Bring on the roasts, game and pastas but especially the blue gouda. Have you tried a BC Icewine with Camenbert? There are lots of good combinations. France produces oustanding cheeses and they go extremely well with the local wines. Do you have a favourite cheese and wine combination? If you want to share it with us let us know.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Wine glut Yes?....No?


Thought I would start this posting with showing you a picture of my wine buddy. Her name is Maddy and she has excellent tasting skills.Check her out on my profile page. The 2005 vintage created a grape glut in most wine regions around the world, especially in Australia. California also had record grape crops. This should benefit the consumer in the short haul. Lower per ton cost for grapes should translate into a reduced cost for a bottle of wine. Meanwhile the surplus wine in Europe is causing some serious concern. In France in particular not only are they concerned about an overproduction but wine exports have slipped. New World wines, particularly in Britain have garnered a larger share of the market at the expense of French wines. But the French are fighting back. Those unruly southern French vintners in the Languedoc region, the CRAV(Regional Committee for Viticultural Action) blame their problems on the Bordeaux vignerons. Meanwhile back at the ranch, the Bordelais don't agree. Help is on its way. World wide there is an increased consumption of wine. With a more affluent middle class in India and China wine consumption in
the countries is on the rise. Norway is also changing its drinking habits. Sounds good so far. Only problem is that both India and China have massive acreages planted to vines. Both of these countries are bringing in international experts and winemakers in an attempt to start producing quality wines.China has recently completed a deal where some of their wines will be available at duty free shops at select airports around the globe. Now Chile is set to cash in on the world wine
market. In the immediate future there will be plenty of cheap wine out there but as the collective tongue of wine drinkers around the world becomes more educated the demand for high quality wines will increase. In spite of the glut of wines, with an incredible 2005 vintage in the Bordeaux expect to pay huge increases for the top chateaux wines.Meanwhile things are heating up in the south of France. Pardon my French but what a strange way of getting rid of the surplus. Sure would have been a lovely aroma on the highways and byways of southern France.View the video on this link. Till next time, enjoy your wines and remember as Pliny the Elder, the Roman Scholar once said when asked "What is the best kind of wine?" He would reply "The best kind of wine is that which is most pleasant to him who drinks it."