? Munson bio wins award: Roy E. Renfro Jr. and Sherrie S. McLeRoy have won the international Gourmand Award ?s Best Wine History book for their Grape Man of Texas: Thomas Volney Munson & the Origins of American Viticulture, published by the Wine Appreciation Guild. This is a big deal; Munson was the Texan whose pioneering work with grapevines helped save the French wine industry during the phylloxera epidemic a century ago.
? Wine fraud: Four British wine dealers who scammed Americans by selling them wines for ?investment purposes ? that turned out to be quite ordinary have been sentenced to as much as four years in jail. One of the investors spent one-half million dollars, reports Decanter. How many times has the Wine Curmudgeon said this? Wine is made to drink, not to buy and sell like real estate.
? Australian wine woes: The continuing shakeout in the Aussie wine business continues, with too many grapes and not enough water. Says one official: The industry ?is in a catastrophic state, partly because of the drought, but the real issue is the oversupply. And that is impacting on everybody in all regions." What does this mean for U.S, consumers? Less cheap Australian wine, as wine producers and grape growers go out of business.
? Another wine scam? An English inventor claims to have devised a machine that can make ordinary wine taste like it ?s a fine French or California vintage. The ?secret, ? besides a cost of more than $600, is ultrasound technology, which supposedly ages the wine in a matter of minutes. Maybe he should call the fellow who paid 500 grand for the cheap wine noted in the first item. What the inventor doesn ?t say is that 90 percent of the wine in the world isn ?t made to age, so making it ?older ? isn ?t going to make it better. What it looks like he ?s doing is aerating the wine; you can accomplish the same thing in a $20 blender.
? David Lett dies: Lett, the father of the Oregon wine business, died last week at the age of 69. He was always a treat to interview, and the fact that he did for Oregon what Robert Mondavi did for California never seemed to impress him very much. Equally as important, he was always trying to figure out how to make his wine better.
? Regional wine week: We had a great time with DrinkLocalWine.com, and had some terrific visitor numbers. They surprised us, actually. My colleague in regional wine, Dave McIntyre, and I will probably keep the site going, adding several features over the next couple of months. We ?re always welcome to suggestions, as well. You can leave them in the comments here.
? Wine speculators taking hit: The global credit meltdown may have put a damper on wine speculation. Private collectors, forced to raise cash, are trying to sell $10 million worth of wine to Vinfolio, a San Francisco-based company that buys and sells wine online. Normally the company has about $6 million offered to it. Among the rare vintages for sale are a 2003 Margaux and a 1990 Romanee-Conti.
? Dan Aykroyd is a funny man: But what did he do to deserve his own wine? He is a celebrity, which is enough these days. Aykroyd, working with DeLoach Vineyards, will have his own chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon later this year. The wines will retail for $17.99 to $19.95. In 2007, the comedian launched his line of Canadian wines. There ?s a joke in there somewhere, but the Wine Curmudgeon, out of respect for Aykroyd ?s work with John Belushi, will skip it.
? A wine-themed subdivision: Who needs a golf course? A Texas Hill Country community is built around a vineyard and a wine bar. It ?s called The Vineyard at Florence, and it ?s certainly unique. My question? Who is going to tend to the vineyard, and what are they going to do with the grapes? One of the grapes that they ?ve planted is norton, which requires a fair bit of work in the vineyard.
? Indian wine group in France: The Asian sub-continent is supposed to be one of the next great wine-growing and wine-consuming regions, which probably explains why an Indian trade group was in Bordeaux this month to study French techniques. I wonder: Did they get to attend a seven-course, 13-wine banquet?
? High alcohol wine: The Robert Mondavi Cabernet Reserve, usually one of Napa ?s top wines (and one of its priciest at $135), has 15.1 percent alcohol in the 2005 vintage. If this isn ?t a record for a super-premium wine, it should be. I got a sample last week, and after it sits for three years or so, I ?ll report back on what it tastes like. By comparison, the 2005 Chateau Margaux, another of the world ?s great wines, is about 13 percent alcohol.
? Dollar signs and restaurant spending: Restaurant customers spend more money when no dollar sign precedes prices on a menu, according to a recent study at the Culinary Institute of America. The study found that menus "without an overt reference to money" — prices with just the number and no dollar sign– resulted in an 8.15 percent increase in average spending per person. The study didn ?t target wine sales, but it seems likely that the same principle would apply. How soon before we seen wine lists without dollar signs?
? Counterfeit wine bottle: British and French researchers have developed a system to date wine bottles, which should help deal with the growing problem of high-end counterfeit wine. The process can determine the date of the bottles, so that wine buyers will know that the 1945 Bordeaux really wasn ?t made in 2005. ?"We sell bottles every day for between $2,000 and $10,000," said the Briton involved in the project. ?Counterfeiting is something we have to be very diligent about."
? State Fair of Texas: The fair ?s Wine 101 classes, which proved such a big hit last year, will return when the fair begins Friday. Look for the Wine Garden, in back of the Food and Fiber building. And, yes, that will be the Wine Curmudgeon holding classes, rotating with well-known wine types John Bratcher and Dan Peabody.
? Manhattan gets a winery: Urban wineries are popular, but in Manhattan? Nevertheless, City Winery, which is set to open this fall, has imported a French winemaker and is run by several well-known New York restaurant types. The biggest question, of course, is price vs. value. How can a winery paying Manhattan rents (and. in this case, SoHo rents, produce wine at a competitive price?
? More wine score sighing: This, from the Wine Blue Book, which compares wines based on price and scores: 2005 Lewis Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve ($113) –average score, 95 points; cost is 41 percent of the average of a similar scoring West Coast cabernet sauvignon. This means it ?s a "Great Value." Have we fallen so far that a $113 wine is a great value?
? GrapeFest People ?s Choice awards: One reason why the Wine Curmudgeon loves the event so much is because ordinary wine drinkers get to be completely honest about what they like. And this year, they liked mead ? more specifically, mead from Purple Possum Winery in Navasota, Texas. The cranberry and habanero meads won their categories. And you know what? I have never been able to figure out what people like about mead.
? Updating the ultimate wine textbook: There ?s a new version, with a new title, of the industry ?s standard text. WineWise: Your Complete Guide to Understanding, Selecting, and Enjoying Wine, written by Culinary Institute of American professors Steven Kolpan, Brian H. Smith, and Michael A. Weiss. It ?s $29.95, and should be out by the end of the month. It ?s highly recommended (though the authors should know by now to include more about Texas).
? Wine intern meets wine harvest: The farming and production part of wine making is, to put it politely, a lot of work. William Goebel, an intern at Folie a Deux Winery, which makes some nice $10 wine (even some more expensive stuff) has decided to write about his experience, and it ?s a lot of fun to read. My favorite, in a post about barrel samples: ?That ?s it, I have to give up, bed time at 6:45pm. ? That ?s the Wine Curmudgeon ?s kind of guy.