Category:Wine news

Tuesday winebits 72: Markham $25,000 grants, direct shipping update, cult wines

? Markham Vineyards' Mark of Distinction: The Napa winery will again award $25,000 grants to two groups or individuals ? selected by the public through online voting ? who have submitted compelling plans to make positive change in their community, town or city. Anyone, from an established charity to a citizen with a great idea, is eligible. You can make a nomination on the web site using the link above.

? Michigan consumers lose out: The legislature has made it more difficult for residents to get wine from something other than a traditional retailer. In Michigan, stores can only ship wine to state residents from vehicles they own, and not companies like Fed-Ex or UPS. And since most out-of-state retailers don ?t own trucks in Michigan ? and most in-state retailers don ?t, either — they can ?t ship wine in the state. So if I live in Ann Arbor, I can ?t order wine from a Detroit retailer over the Internet or even by phone, unless I drive to Detroit to pick it up. Even wine.com has given up, and won ?t ship to Michigan.

? Cult wine prices drop 50 percent: Or so reports Elin McCoy after attending a major Napa wine auction last month: ?Five cases of 2007 Shafer cabernet from their Sunspot Vineyard, which provides the heart of the winery ?s top cab Hillside Select, pulled in $24,000, compared with $62,000 in 2008. ? More about slumping U.S. wine sales, and what the industry doesn ?t want to face up to, coming soon.

Tuesday winebits 71: Beard awards, re-closing wine bottles, wine exchange rates

? Beard wine nominees: The Beards are best known for food ? think of it as the Academy Awards for chefs ? but it also rewards wine. The list is here. The categories include outstanding restaurant wine service and outstanding wine and spirits professional. And, a personal note: John T. Edge, the impresario of the Southern Foodways Alliance, will be inducted into Who ?s Who of Food & Beverage in America at the awards event. John T. knows his business, and has done yeoman work to preserve and protect what ?s important about honest food in the U.S.

? Re-closing wine bottles: Want to know what works best after you ?ve opened it, but haven ?t finished the wine? How about none them? Or at least after two or three days, when most of the them don ?t make of a difference.

? Wine and exchange rates: This article, by Matt Kramer in Portland ?s Oregonian newspapers, is one of the best short explanations about how exchange rates and the strength of the U.S. dollar affect wine prices. And the review isn ?t bad, either.

Fat Bastard and Texas

Or, don ?t believe everything you read on the Internet.

Several visitors have arrived here recently looking for information about Fat Bastard wines, which several websites say can ?t be sold in Texas. Which is hooey. We may have some odd and annoying liquor laws in Texas, but they have nothing to do with Fat Bastard. Now, if you want to talk about our wet-dry and private club laws, we could have a lengthy discussion.

?I see Fat Bastard in my grocery store all the time, ? says Carolyn Beck, who is a spokesman for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which regulates wine sales in the state. ?As far as I know, it ?s never been banned. ?

The confusion, apparently, stems from the TABC ?s label review process, which used to be more extensive than it is today. Today, if the federal agency that regulates wine labels says a label is OK, then it ?s OK in Texas. Which Fat Bastard is.

San Diego International wine competition highlights

A few thoughts after tasting 250 wines in two days as one of the 36 judges:

? Regional wine scored big. The best of show white wine was Dr. Konstantin Frank ?s semi-dry riesling and the dessert wine winner was from Wolffler Estate Vineyards, both from New York state. Both were stunning wines (and, as ice wines go, the Wolffler wasn ?t ridiculously expensive at $37). Missouri did well, including a gold medal for St. James ? very interesting strawberry wine. I was also impressed with Texas ? efforts. Llano Estacado won a gold (its riesling dessert wine) and silver (its Viviano Italian-style blend) and Stone House in the Hill Country won a silver for its norton.

? And yes, I was surprised by the success of regional wine. Call me a reverse snob, but I didn ?t expect a competition with mostly California judges to see the merits of regional wine. Shows how much I know.

? Biggest surprise?  The best champagne/sparkling wine was Pink from Australia ?s Yellowglen. The $12 bubbly beat several much more expensive and better known wines, demonstrating the advantages of blind tasting. I actually voted for another wine in the sweepstakes balloting. I didn ?t think the Pink was fruity enough.

? High alcohol hasn ?t left us yet. Many of the gold-medal red wines were higher than 14.5 percent, and quite a few were higher than 15 percent. I think this is one area that shows  the influence of California judges, and especially winemakers as judges. They aren ?t bothered by high alcohol the way many of the rest of us are.

? Complete results are here. Thanks to Robert Whitely for asking me to judge and to Richard Carey of Vitis Research and Kimberly Charles of Charles Communications, who were the other two judges at my table.

Tuesday winebits 70: Napa wine prices, St. Emilion classification, Iowa wine

? Napa wine prices: The world as we know it is ending, reports Paul Franson in Wines & Vines. Some Napa producers are considering cutting prices. Participants at an industry panel earlier this month told wineries that people are trading down ? that those who bought $40 to $45 wines (core Napa territory) are buying wines that cost $20 or even $10, and the industry must adjust. Said one speaker: ?Life won ?t be the same. ?

? Court throws out St. Emilion classification: The 2006 St. Emilion classification, which rates the quality of the region ?s wine, is invalid and will have to be redone, reports Decanter. A French appeals court said there were irregularities during the tasting process and should no longer stand. This is huge news, even if it baffles most Americans. The French government oversees wine ratings in Bordeaux ? on the left bank, which is part of the famous 1855 Classification, and on the right bank in St. Emilion. The latter is reclassified every 10 years, and the 2006 reclassification was appealed by a producer who was downgraded. The court told the government it would have to go back and redo the 2006 ratings. This is, of course, yet another reason why ratings are silly.

? Iowa wine: Because the Wine Curmudgeon can ?t get enough of regional wine. It ?s not the best written piece in the world (a little overdone, frankly), but this effort from Appellation America is a terrific overview of what ?s going on in Iowa. Notes author Clark Smith: The best Iowa wines are are ?clean, varietal and always well balanced, wines that succeed by not trying too hard. ? Which is what all winemakers should shoot for, isn ?t it?

Tuesday winebits 69: Fat Bastard, Sting’s wine, Euros ban labels

? Fat Bastard is sold: French producer Boisset bought the company that makes Fat Bastard, one of the first clever label brands. Boisset is best known in the U.S. for owning Deloach and inexpensive imports from the south of France like French Rabbit and Lulu B. This is another in what looks to be continuing consolidation at that end of the market, which has included Gallo ?s purchase of Spanish producer Las Rocas.

? Sting launches wine label: The front man for the Police will sell about 2,500 cases of red wine made on his country estate in Tuscany. It is supposed to be available in the U.S. later this year. The wine will be a Super Tuscan, though it doesn ?t have a name yet (and no, it probably won ?t be called Roxanne.) And, yes, one of the headlines for this story in the cyber-ether was ?Message in a bottle. ? Ouch. The Wine Curmudgeon is going to have to teach these people how to write headlines.

? European label ban: The European Commission, in what looks to be a reversal of policy, apparently will not allow U.S. wineries that use the word chateau, clos, or even vintage on their labels to be sold in the European Union, reports Wines & Vines. This seems to be part of the long-standing trade dispute between the EU and the U.S. that everyone thought had been settled in 2006. But the Europeans have re-opened the discussion, which they were allowed to do. One of the biggest losers? Napa ?s Clos du Val, run by French winemaker Bernard Portet, which had to stop selling its wine in Europe — where it enjoys a fine reputation. I know Portet a little, and he will not be happy.

Tuesday wine bits 68: Wine labels, Amy Culbertson, cutting supply

? Wine label web site: The people behind LocalWineEvents.com have come up with a web site to help those of us who can ?t remember the name of a wine, but do remember the label. It ?s called WineLabelWorld.com, and features labels from around the world. It works by using an image keyword search, which helps wine drinkers find the actual label, which is displayed on the site. You can also browse the site by country.

? A fond farewell: The woman who gave the Wine Curmudgeon his name is retiring from the newspaper business. Amy Culbertson, the food editor at the Star-Telegram newspaper in Fort Worth, didn ?t have to think very hard to come up with it when we were brainstorming ideas for the wine column I write for the paper. It was, she said, a natural. And she was right, of course. Amy was a pro, one of the finest people I have worked with. The newspaper business, which is having troubles enough, will be hard-pressed to replace Amy (and the thousands like her) who are leaving in the wake of the industry ?s financial problems.

? When it doubt, make less: Knob Creek, a high-end bourbon, has what appears to be an interesting solution to the recession. It ?s making less bourbon. I got a news release from the company, warning me that it will be more difficult to find the whiskey in stores this year. The release, written in PR-speak, is a little fuzzy. But what I think it means is that the company had two choices ? cut costs by making a less premium spirit, or make less. It opted for the latter. It ?s an approach with much to recommend it, since the market is about to be flooded with high-end wines that have been marked down significantly in order to sell them.