Tag Archives: ancient wine

Winebits 664: Fast food wine pairings, ancient wine, pandemic wine sales

Fast food wine pairings

No, this was not the WC’s favorite hat of all time, though the uniform did turn me off polyester forever.

This week’s wine news: Are fast food wine pairings the next big thing? Plus, 7th century BC wine, and more confusing numbers about pandemic wine sales.

Bring on the Whoppers: Who knew the Wine Curmudgeon would be able to discuss the fast food of his youth two weeks in a row? But Christine Struble, writing for the Foodsided blog, asks: “Are fast food wine pairings becoming the newest food trend?” Perhaps, but the concept isn’t new. I received a release in the blog’s early days from a brand called Fat Bastard touting fast food wine pairings; I’ve written about it here several times; and I taught them to wine classes at the late Cordon Bleu and El Centro. Because if you’re trying to reach people whose diet consists of fast food, what better way to teach pairings? Or, as I asked one group of Cordon Bleu students, “What do we pair with a Burger King cheese Whopper?” The consensus was supermarket-style merlot; plus, they got to hear about working the broiler at the Burger King on Skokie Road in Highland Park, Ill., resplendent in my polyester uniform and paper hat.

2,700 years ago: Archeologists have discovered the first Iron Age wine press in present-day Lebanon, reinforcing the idea that wine played a key role in the ancient world. They found the press, used to extract juice from grapes, during excavations at the Phoenician site of Tell el-Burak near the present day city of Sidon (an important trading hub in wine and other goods in the Mediterranean region). Grapes were grown in and around Tell el-Burak, which was inhabited from the late eighth to the middle of the fourth century BC. Researchers have also found amphorae, ancient wine bottles, in the area. But no one was quite sure how the grapes were turned into wine until this discovery.

More conflicting statistics? Blake Gray, writing on Wine-Searcher.com, finds even more conflict in wine sales during the pandemic. He cites research from California’s Sonoma State University, which found that even though U.S. wine sales overall are up, 57 percent of U.S wineries say their own sales are down. Or, as we have noted here, there’s little sense in trying to make sense of any of the numbers. Ostensibly, “Big wineries are taking more market share at the expense of small wineries,” said the report. You will also be happy to know, according to one analyst at the same seminar, that Americans may have had more disposable income than ever, despite the pandemic. I wonder: What country is he living in?

Photo courtesy of MeTV, using a Creative Commons license

Winebits 607: Amazon wine, cheap wine, ancient wine

amazon wineThis week’s wine news: Amazon may deliver wine in San Francisco, plus one wine reviewer fails to find quality cheap wine and archaeologists discover an ancient winery

Amazon wine delivery: Amazon, twice thwarted in its attempt to sell wine over the Internet, may have found a way around the problem: Local delivery. The cyber-ether giant has applied for a license to open a liquor store at its San Francisco warehouse, where it would sell beer, wine, and spirits. Amazon’s license application says the store would be open 8 a.m.-4 p.m., but it would deliver alcohol from 8 a.m. to midnight. Oddly, this seems to be what Amazon has been doing in Los Angeles, without anyone finding out until Blake Gray visited the store. He reports that it seems to be violating a variety of California’s liquor regulations.

Where is all the cheap wine? All Winethropology’s Steve McIntosh wanted to do was buy “a mixed case of inexpensive wine. My target price range was $10-13, and my objective was to have some bottles around to enjoy with weeknight meals. Nothing extravagant, just a handful each of summer-friendly reds and whites.” Which, of course, is what most of us want. Does it seem like asking a lot? So what happened after visits to three independent retailers in and around Columbus, Ohio? “I failed. Miserably. Five bottles with an average price of $14 made it home with me. … Has wine become so expensive now that drinkable $10-12 wines are the unicorns of the industry?” Regular visitors here well understand what happened to Steve, since I’ve been lamenting the same thing for a couple of years. Steve’s analysis of premiumization is spot on.

A long, long time ago: Excavations in a northern Israeli hilltop town have discovered the largest Crusader-era winery yet found in that part of the world. The winery dates from the mid-12th century, when European Christians established a series of small kingdoms and principalities in the wake of the 11th century First Crusade. The area around the winery had been planted with vines during the Roman and Crusader periods. As such, it would have likely been the center of wine production in that region, where local grape growers would be required to bring their crops as rent or dues.

Winebits 565: Wine advice, ancient wine, three-tier system

ancient wine

This week’s wine news: More bad wine advice, plus a shipwreck could hold evidence of 2,400-year-old wine and a another challenge to the three-tier system

No, no, no: Points and scores are bad enough, but when a general interest website runs a story aimed at beginning wine drinkers and starts throwing around winespeak, we know we’re in trouble. But that’s what the Skillet site did, advising a white wine drinker to try a red made using carbonic maceration. There is almost no reason for anyone to know what that means, unless you’re a wine geek. And, of course, most people aren’t wine geeks. Is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business? Next time, use English – words like soft, fruity, and so forth – and then drop in tannins if you want to get technical.

More than 20 centuries old? A 2,400 year-old wreck has been found in the Black Sea, and researchers think the ship may have been used to carry and trade wine. “Normally we find amphorae (wine vases) and can guess where it’s come from, but with this it’s still in the hold,” said a member of the expedition. The wreck is similar to the ship pictured on the Siren Vase in the British Museum. The vase, dating to around 480 BC, shows Odysseus (of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey) strapped to the mast as his ship sails past three sea nymphs.

Another challenge: A Florida-based wine importer has filed suit in California, claiming that the state’s version of the three-tier system is unconstitutional. The Dickenson Peatman & Fogarty law blog says that if the suit is successful, any importer or wholesaler in the U.S. – even if they don’t have a California license – may be permitted to sell to California retailers without using an in-state distributor. This would be a revolutionary change, possibly making it easier for consumers to buy wine previously unavailable. However, the firm doesn’t rate the suit’s chances highly, noting that the precedent used in the suit hasn’t been applied to importers before, calling it a “bridge too far” in the suit’s approach.

Winebits 553: Ancient wine, wine facts, wine’s popularity

ancient wine

This week’s wine news: Archaeologists have uncovered an ancient wine bottling plant, plus wine facts you don’t need to know and wine remains less popular than beer.

Corks or scewcaps? The Reuters news service reports that relics from an 1,800-year-old large-scale wine jug factory have been uncovered in Israel. Pottery shards, presumably from flawed and discarded jugs, were found at the site near Gedara, about 30 minutes south of Tel Aviv. The factory was active for around 600 years, making vessels for storing wine that were popular export items, the Israel Antiquities Authority said in statement. “The ongoing manufacturing may point to this having been a family business, handed down from generation to generation.” No word on whether the wine bottled at the site was reviewed by the Roman Winestream Media. I mention this because the time frame for the remains roughly coincides with the Roman occupation of that part of the world, and so much else about this place sounds similar to the way the wine business works today. So why not 88 points from Pliny?

Forget about it: The Huffington Post, trying to make wine less difficult, offers insight into common wine knowledge that no one really needs to know. The first one? Forget scores. The other four points also make good sense, including the uselessness of vintages for the wine that most of us drink, plus the foolishness of tasting notes “written by a corporation or a publication,” which are “pretty much useless.” It’s good to know I’m not the only one who has figured this out.

It’s still beer: Americans still prefer beer over wine, according to the latest soundings from Gallup. Beer is at 42 percent, wine is at 34 percent, and spirits are at 19 percent. That’s a bit of bump for wine, which was at 26 percent in 2017. Wine passed beer briefly in 2007. but has been in second place since. My other favorite part of the Gallup drinking surveys? One-third of Americans say they don’t imbibe, a number that has remained stunningly consistent for decades.

Winebits 529: Ancient wine, wine on airplanes, bootlegged wine

ancient wineThis week’s wine news: The history of wine may be older than we think, plus Alaska Airlines offers free wine shipping and Canadians enjoy bootlegged wine

Very, very old: Scientists have discovered wine residue in clay pots more than 5,000 years old. If it is wine, will force archaeologists to reconsider how long we’ve been making and drinking wine. This discovery, in caves under the Monte Kronio volcano in Sicily (along with a similar find in the republic of Georgia), means wine use may be a couple of thousand years older than believed. Even more amazing, the wine in the caves may have been part of a complex system of international trade, bringing copper goods to Sicily in exchange for wine. And without the three-tier system, too.

Free shipping: Who knew airline free wine shipping would be a draw? But Alaska Airlines thinks it is, part of their “Wine Flies Free” program. Those of us who travel to wine regions served by Alaska, which includes parts of California and the Pacific Northwest, can check a case of wine without paying the fee. You have to belong to the airline’s frequent flyer program, but that’s about the only condition save whether your state allows it.

Not in my province: Canadians, who usually seem more sensible about these things, are embroiled in a trade war over wine and oil. The province of Alberta, which has the oil, wants to build a pipeline through neighboring British Columbia, which has the wine but doesn’t want the pipeline. The premier of Alberta has imposed an embargo on B.C. wine until the latter allows the pipeline. In other words, much U.S.-style foolishness – and even someone trying to make money off the embargo. The Calgary Herald reports that a luxury wine tour company, Butiq Escapes, is offering a “B.C. Wine Smuggling Escape for Albertans,” complete with private jet to fly you to B.C. wine country.

Ancient Hebrews: “If there is any wine send it”

ancients hebrews wine

Now where did I put that wine requisition?

2,600-year-old inscription offers view of ancient Hebrew wine world without three-tier, wine scores, and restaurant markups

We tend to forget, given the foolishness that consumes the post-modern wine business, that wine is nothing new. I always tell my El Centro students that the French wine industry dates to the 12th century; one reason Henry II of England married Eleanor of Aquitaine was for her dowry, which included Bordeaux’s vineyards.

So I was both pleased and not surprised to see that Hebrew soldiers, stationed in a fortress in the ancient kingdom of Judah around 600 BC, included wine in a supply requisition. Researchers found the request on a pottery shard discovered in 1965, and used advances in imaging techniques to decipher what had not been legible for the past 52 years.

The supply request, addressed to a quartermaster, included information about paying for supplies, as well as making sure the soldiers had enough flour, oil, and wine. In other words, not that much different than one of today’s supermarkets ordering from its distributor.

The shard inscription, however, left several key questions unanswered:

• How did the wine trade survive without the three-tier system? Is this one explanation for the Babylonian conquest of Judah, which occurred around the time the inscription was written?

• How did the quartermaster determine wine quality? The deciphered inscription, just 17 words, doesn’t include wine scores or tasting notes. Again, was the failure to include these another key to Judah’s destruction?

• Also missing: any information about wine pricing and markups. Did the Judah military buy at wholesale, or was it forced to pay restaurant-style markups? If so, did the latter and its exorbitant costs bankrupt the military and lead to the country’s downfall?