Category:Wine news

Tuesday tidbits

? If you can have wine jelly. …: I have no idea what to make of this, so I’ll just report it. An Arizona company is selling something called  wine fragrances and body rubs, made from grape seeds. And, yes, the prose is just as convoluted as some wine writing: “… the complex scent of oranges and tangerines,  with hints of rose. …”

? Big prices for Aussie wine: Barossa Valley Ares Shiraz, Aphrodite Cabernet Sauvignon and Aerope Grenache — all produced by Two Hands Wines —  fetched $130,000 at the Naples Winter Wine Festival last weekend. Those are impressive prices for Australian wine, which tends to lag behind Bordeaux and Napa at these sorts of events.

? Costco and the three-tier system: More news, not necessarily welcome for consumers, from Costco’s long-running attempt to overturn Washington state liquor laws that regulate the prices the chain can charge for beer and wine. A federal appeals court upheld state laws that allow the Washington State Liquor Control Board to prohibit discounts, require wholesale distributors to charge uniform prices to all retailers and require a 10 percent markup. The wine industry has been following the Costco case, since its ramification could affect how wine is sold in the rest of the country.

Texas wine festivals

The most important — the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival — attracts national attention. But there are half dozen others this spring.

This is not surprising, given wine’s increasing popularity. There are 155 wineries in the state, including some three dozen in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

?It has been an amazing experience, ? says Caris Turpin at Lightcatcher Winery in Fort Worth. ?We never thought we would have done so well so quickly. We had no idea we ?d get this kind of response. ?

Hence, seven big-deal wine festivals in the state through the end of the spring:

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Tuesday tidbits

? Rosenblum sells out: One of the best independent California wine producers isn’t independent any more. Rosenblum Cellars, which specializes in zinfandel, was bought yesterday by Diageo. The massive multi-national paid $105 million for the winery, which had been owned by by the Rosenblum family since 1978. Kent Rosenblum, a vet, started the winery as a sideline, making just 400 cases his first year. (In fact, Rosenblum still owns a vet practice in northern California).

This is the second of the big three zin producers to go corporate, with Ravenswood Winery selling to Constellation Brands in 2001 (resulting in a surprising drop in quality). Only Ridge Vineyards remains independent. Expect to see the new Rosenblum drop some of its less high-profile wines, like its fun and well-made Chateau La Paws red and white blends, and focus on more expensive zinfandels. No word yet on how much the Rosenblum family will have to do with the winery once the sale is final.

? Bring on Alsace: Gil Kulers at Wine Kulers (love that name) writes about one of my favorite subjects, Alsatian wine. Most of it is a great value, most of it is white, and most of it pairs with sausage."This may shock the steakhouse crowd, which would be lost without its alcoholic, over-oaked cabernet sauvignons," he writes. "After all, how can a measly white wine stand up to all those types of foods, especially heavy dishes featuring Alsace’s renowned sausages and game preparations?" That’s my kind of wine guy. 

? Super Bowl wine: The Wine Curmudgeon, who once toiled as a sportswriter and hopes never to have to do it again, is well aware that there is a football game on Sunday. He’ll just be doing something else. But for those of you who do want to pair wine with football, this is the time to break out the jug wine — the 1.5-liter bottles of grocery store brands such as Meridian, Woodbridge, Glen Ellyn and the like. There’s nothing actually wrong with them, especially when people are eating nacho-flavored corn chips.

Students pair wine with food

Maybe there is something to this teaching business.

My first class at the Dallas Cordon Bleu took its final Friday, and the results were impressive. The test was simple: Match a five-course meal with wine, and I used dishes that these first-year students had either learned or that had simple ingredients and techniques, like pot roast instead of Beef Wellington.

Their job was not to pick a right or wrong wine. Instead, it was to pick a wine and explain why it went with the dish. In this respect, there were no right or wrong answers. If someone could make an argument for white zinfandel with pot roast, they got full credit. That no one tried to do that also struck me as a good sign.

After the jump, the menu and a look at their choices:

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Tuesday tidbits

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? Nutritional labeling of wines. Yes, you read that right — just like peanut butter, potato chips and soft drinks. The federal agency that regulates wine wants to add serving facts, which will require information about serving size, number of servings per container, calorie, carbohydrate, protein and fat content. The wine industry isn’t thrilled, since nutritional labeling adds cost to the product, and makes it less aesthetically appealing. The image above is a sample, taken from the Federal Register, which seems harmless enough. But smaller wineries, especially regional ones, will probably struggle to meet the requirements. It’s one thing, with economies of scale, to put the label on tens of thousands of bottle. It’s another to do it when you produce just a couple of thousand bottles.

? Vintners Hall of Fame. Ernest and Julio Gallo (E&J Gallo Winery), Paul Draper (Ridge Vineyards), Milijenko ?Mike ? Grgich (Grgich Hills) and Sacramento wine merchant  Darryl Corti will be inducted into the hall, sponsored by the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus. Also named as Pioneers are the founders of three of California’s most historically important wineries: John Daniel (Inglenook); Louis P. Martini (Louis M. Martini Winery); and Carl Wente (Wente Vineyards). It’s especially heartening to see Draper’s name on the list. Ridge is among the finest U.S. wineries, and has constantly strived to make zinfandel a socially acceptable grape in a world of cabernet and merlot snobs..

Direct shipping gets closer

A federal court judge threw out Texas’ ban on Internet direct shipping yesterday, which means the state’s wine drinkers are one step closer to buying product from out-of-state retailers.

The ruling said Texas may not prohibit out-of-state wine merchants from shipping to Texas, since the state allows the shipment of wine from in-state Texas wine merchants. In other words, if I can buy wine from a Houston retailer, I should be able to buy it from a New York City-based retailer. The judge cited the 2005 Supreme Court decision that legalized direct shipping from wineries to consumers, even if the latter lived in another state.

This is a big deal. Theoretically, it would allow any consumer in the U.S. to buy wine from any retailer, something that has been illegal since the end of Prohibition. In this respect, subject to minimum age requirements, it would make wine as simple to buy on the Internet as tennis shoes, books or a computer.

The catch, of course, is whether the decision will stand up on appeal. It’s probably too soon to tell. The Supreme Court’s 2005 decision did not address retailers, and an appeals court may consider that sufficient reason for voiding it. My guess is that a federal appeals court will overturn it, which will put the issue back in front of the Supreme Court.