This week’s wine news: Even La Vielle Ferme rose wants to be hip, plus Utah liquor laws and Kevin Zraly.
• Bring on the pink: How do we know that rose is hot, hip, and happening? Because the Wine Curmudgeon has received two news releases from the company that makes La Vieille Ferme rosé, the first I’ve ever gotten from La Vielle. The wine has been sold in the U.S. for so long that I wasn’t old enough to drink when it first appeared; until 10 or 12 years ago, the rooster rose was about the only dry pink wine that was widely available. That the producer needs to remind wine writers that it’s still on the market, and hasn’t done a Blue Nun, speaks to the idea that newer, more trendy roses are getting all the attention. I should try it again and see if the producer has stepped up its game given all the competition on the market.
• Even in Utah: The state, known for some of the most draconian three-tier laws in the country, sold a record five percent more booze on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. This matters since the state makes it so difficult to buy spirits, wine, and beer. Nevertheless, there were so many customers at some of the 44 state-owned stores that officials had to limit the number of people in the store so it wouldn’t be overcrowded. If anything shows that the country’s attitude towards alcohol has changed, this is it. Utah is home to the Mormon church, whose members are supposed to abstain.
• 40 years on: Kevin Zraly, the man who wrote perhaps the best introductory book about wine, has taught his last Windows on the World wine class. I can’t say enough about Zraly’s book; I’ve used it in my El Centro class and always recommend it. Says Zraly: “If my course had just been about wine, it never would have lasted. It’s interactive. It’s entertaining, I want people to talk. I studied elementary education. After the third glass of wine, it’s not a class. It’s crowd control.”
? A Churchillian anniversary: This is the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death, which the Wine Curmudgeon notes for several reasons. First, so I can run a picture of Churchill on the blog; second, because he was a fine writer and historian, which he somehow found time to do in addition to saving the world from Adolph Hitler; and third, because he appreciated wine. How many of us get a Champagne named after us? Churchill also drank wine with dinner, a practice that I like to think helped him in his battle against the Nazis — mostly red Bordeaux, which the English call claret.
? Pull out those vines: Grape growers in California’s Central Valley are ripping out vines and replacing them with more profitable crops such as almonds, thanks to slowing sales of cheap wine and a glut of cheap wine from overseas. The Sacramento Bee, covering one of the biggest wine trade shows of the year, reports that some 22,000 acres of vineyards have been removed since the 2014 harvest ended. Before we panic, know that these sorts of things are cyclical, and as soon as demand picks up, the grape vines will return. It’s also worth mentioning that these vines are used in wines cost $7 or less, and often used to make the huge boxes like Franzia.
? Happy No. 30: This year marks the 30th anniversary of perhaps the best wine book ever written, Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Wine Course. How good is it? I use it in my El Centro class. Mike Veseth at the the Wine Economist offers a few thoughts about the anniversary, noting that “Where many wine guides jump into geography, geology, variety and so forth in encyclopedic detail, Zraly more or less begins with the question, ‘A bottle of white? A bottle of red?’ as you would in a restaurant.” Best yet, it’s written in English, mostly avoids winespeak, and covers the basics without bogging down into wine geekdom.