Jan 182012
 

Tasting season is hereIt’s event season in the wine industry! The Union des Grands Cru de Bordeaux is touring this month in four States followed by the Italian Wine Masters in two cities, and there are many other trade tastings happening across the country.

While you don’t need a license to cast in these waters, there are some common sense things to follow when going to a tasting event. Now that is not to say we are taking the fun out of tasting events!  What is not to love about having a room full of different wines and a few hours to taste as many as possible before the doors shut?

But still ….

Be neutral. Yes, Chanel is a lovely perfume, but if you wear it at a tasting and make wine lovers choose between smelling you and the wines, the wines will wine every time.  EVERY time.

Spit.  There are still those that think they can defy the laws of consumption. NOTE: we don’t rent stretchers as part of our event planning. As Paul Wagner, owner of Balzac Communications says at the beginning of every wine class he teaches, “If you don’t spit, you will die.”  Or at least embarrass yourself greatly.

Be nice.  The other guests are your colleagues and you may just end up interviewing for a job with one of them in the future. And be nice to the people behind the tables as well, even if you are feeling a little saucy. I once had a gentleman act so rude, I handed him my business card and told him to call me in the morning to apologize.  Still waiting….

Stealing. Bad. Don’t take off with the glassware.  Unless it is a logo glass and your entry fee included the glass. While it may be fun to recount stories of your tasting while showing off your new glass back home, first, you are showing off; cut it out.  Second, it does not match your other glassware; and third, it is wrong. Organizers have to pay for every missing glass.  Stop it.

Take Two Steps Back.  Try not to hog the winery tables. If you are just tasting and not waxing poetic with the winemaker, then step back to taste your wine and let others in.

We care.   OK, first, let me get this audio clip out of the way—I just can’t think of the word care without hearing this whine from Luke Skywalker:  http://www.audiomicro.com/free-star-wars-luke-skywalker-sound-clips-i-care-download-666178 (AudioMicro)

But really, organizers of wine events do care. Tell us if you have thoughts on what would make the event better the next time; tell us if we did a fantastic job. We are much more approachable than Chewbacca.

Jan 112012
 
Prosecco Superiore

Photo by: Paul Wagner

We spent part of December in Italy, visiting some of the most interesting regions of Europe’s most complicated wine system. And boy, did we learn things.

First of all, we really got to understand the difference between Prosecco DOC and Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG. And no, it’s not just a lot more words.

Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore is a fascinating region that sits up against the foothills of the Alps. The steep hillside vineyards are hand-worked, the wines are hand crafted in small lots, and the whole feeling of the place is like something from a different world. These were the wines that first got wine lovers excited about Prosecco and they range from the softer, fruitier wines of Conegliano to the more structured and concentrated wines of Valdobbiadene.

Castle in Conegliano-Valdobbiadene

Photo by: Paul Wagner

On the other hand, from every hillside in Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore you can see a vast plain below, full of large flat vineyards. These are the massive plantings that provide machine harvested fruit for the usual “party in a bottle” Prosecco that you see in supermarkets.

Like we said: big difference.

Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore: more words, more interesting wines. But can you pronounce it? We spent a week practicing, and we finally have it down!
So now if they can just come up with some easy way for Americans to ask for these wines: CVPS? Prosecco Superiore? Prosecco VCS? Any suggestions?

Jan 092012
 
Why is it so complicated?

Image: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The world of wine can be a complicated place, but are we making it more complex than it needs to be?

Um, yea, could be.

Blogger Kris Chislett at Blog Your Wine recently wrote an article about how we, in the wine and hospitality industry, have traditionally taught our peers.

“Sure, I can wax poetically with the best of ‘em about the meso-climates within this one tiny vineyard parcel within the sub-region of a greater region, which has a sandy loam soil and maritime climate. I just don’t think that’s what most people, even the more wine-savvy, can relate to.”

We couldn’t agree more. How many times have you gone into a restaurant and asked your server, “So, what wines do you have whose grapes grew in calcareous soil?” We’re guessing… never. (Okay, not seriously anyway, maybe as a joke) So, why are we so obsessed with trivial information that is mostly irrelevant to 99.999% of people who drink wine?

What do people really want to know about Sonoma Valley, for instance? That the valley areas tend to be quite fertile, loamy and have better water-retention while the soils at higher elevations are meager, rocky and well-drained?

Snore fest…

Or, that the town of Sonoma is the last and most northern stop on the historic “Mission Trail” and that the missionaries brought the grape vine with them when they settled in 1823 and wine has been made in the area ever since? Or that Agoston Haraszthy , founder of Buena Vista Winery and “The father of California Wine Industry,” mysteriously disappeared while travelling in Nicaragua in 1869, probably eaten by alligators?

Most people would take the alligators over volcanic soil any day.

Jan 062012
 

Guild of SommeliersEvery time we hear someone talk about how important it is to educate wine consumers, we get the willies. Yeah, education is great. In fact, our TTB blog team has people who teach through all the major wine educations programs in the USA and through at least four of the top academic institutions that offer wine classes. We know wine education. We love it. But DANG!

That doesn’t mean we are wine experts. Nobody is. Every time we meet someone who claims to be a wine expert, we roll our eyes and groan.

Why?

Because nobody knows it all. And just to illustrate the point, here is a wonderful list of all the important changes in wine law around the world IN THE LAST YEAR!

Imagine teaching another subject, like reading or writing or ‘rithmetic, and having to change the textbook each year because the old one is out of date! No wonder most consumers get frustrated and intimidated.

Next thing you know, they are going to change the limits of Champagne or something.

Oh wait, they already did that.

Here’s the list—and thanks to the Guild of Sommeliers for putting this together—it’s a good one!


2011 Wine Law Update

Happy new year from the Guild of Sommeliers! There have been many changes to the world of wine law in 2011. We wanted to send you a quick synopsis of the more important changes over the last year. We hope you find it useful. Happy reading and make sure to login to the guildsomm community and enjoy some of our recent features!

2011 Wine Law Update

Italy

The following new DOCG zones were formally approved in 2011:
Veneto: Montello Rosso, Friularo di Bagnoli, Colli di Conegliano
Toscana: Rosso della Val di Cornia, Suvereto, Montecucco Sangiovese, Elba Aleatico Passito
Puglia: Castel del Monte Bombino Nero, Castel del Monte Nero di Troia, Castel del Monte Rosso Riserva, Tavoliere delle Puglia
Marches: Offida
Lazio: Frascati Superiore, Cannellino di Frascati
Fruili: Rosazzo Emilia-Romagna: Colli Bolognesi Classico Pignoletto
Campania: Aglianico del Taburno
In Asti DOCG, three legal subzones now exist: Canelli, Strevi, and Santa Vittoria d’Alba. All three subzones only
produce Moscato d’Asti. Maximum pressure for Moscato d’Asti has been raised to 2 atmospheres. Moscato d’Asti late harvest (Vendemmia Tardiva) wines may be produced.

Germany

VDP Erste Lage sweet wines may be released on May 1 of the year following the harvest. Grosses Gewächs dry whites are not released until September 1.

USA

In southern Napa, Coombsville has been formally approved by the TTB as a new AVA. In Sonoma County, Fort Ross-Seaview AVA has been approved. The coastal AVA is located with Sonoma Coast AVA, south of the Annapolis area. Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak AVA, new in 2011, is located in northern Sonoma County and southern Mendocino County and overlaps part of Alexander Valley. At the close of 2011, the TTB approved Naches Heights AVA, a region within Columbia Valley in Washington state.

South Africa

Elandskloof is a new ward within Overberg. Napier is another new ward located in the Cape South Coast region. It is not located within a district.

Argentina

As of 2008, producers in Argentina may use the terms “Reserva” and “Gran Reserva” for white and red wines produced from certain varities. To qualify for “Reserva”, white wines must age for a minimum six months prior to release, and reds must age for a minimum twelve months prior to release. Minimum aging increases to one and two years, respectively, for white and red “Gran Reserva” wines.

Chile

In 2011, the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture approved a new set of geographical terms, based on east/west geography rather than north/south geography (Ministry of Agriculture Decree # 16, an amendment to the original 1994 Decree # 464). Now producers may use the designations “Costa” (coast), “Entre Cordilleras” (between mountains), or “Andes” to reflect the proximity of their vineyards to the coast or the mountains. These new appellations may complement the existing appellations on labels in the future. A min. 85% of grapes must be grown in the listed appellation.

France Wine Law System

Confusion has reigned regarding the alignment of France’s traditional appellation system with the Common Market Organization reforms of the EU, but it is now clear that AOC and AOP are intended to be complementary designations. AOP will not entirely replace AOC on labels; rather, producers have the choice of using one or the other. Vin de Pays and IGP are likewise complementary designations. VDQS has been eliminated, leaving three tiers of French wine appellations: AOC/AOP, Vin de Pays/IGP, and Vin de France.

Bordeaux:

“Côtes de Francs” was eliminated as a geographical designation for Bordeaux AOC/AOP.

Burgundy:

In 2011, maximum yield requirements for nearly all village, premier cru, and grand cru appellations were raised, as were the requirements for minimum must weights. Monopole grand crus now require
manual harvesting—an amendment to AOC rules that reflects the tradition in these vineyards. While Burgundy’s greatest vineyards saw yields increase in 2011, base yields in the crus of Beaujolais decreased, from 58 hl/ha to 56 hl/ha. Coteaux Bourguignons AOC/AOP is the new name for an old appellation, Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire. Blended red, rosé, and white wines are authorized.

Loire:

In Pays Nantais, 3 former VDQS zones received AOC/AOP status: Gros Plant du Pays Nantais, Fiefs Vendéens, and Coteaux d’Ancenis. In the tradition of Muscadet, Gros Plant wines may be labeled “Sur
Lie”. Coteaux d’Ancenis produces red and white wines; white wines from the appellation are off-dry, varietal versions of Pinot Gris.
In Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine, the “Cru Communaux” proposal raised over a decade ago has finally been adopted into AOC law. Three crus (subzones) now exist: Clisson, Gorges, and Le Pallet. It is expected that more will follow shortly. These wines are aged on the lees for a longer period of time than is legally allowed for the “Sur Lie” designation, and therefore may not list that term on the label.
In Anjou, two former crus (subzones) of Savennières are now fully-fledged, separate appellations: Savennières Coulée de Serrant AOC/AOP and Savennières Roche Aux Moines AOC/AOP. Both totally prohibit chaptalization, and each has tighter controls on yields, and higher minimum must weight and minimum potential alcohol requirements than the basic Savennières AOC/AOP.
In the Coteaux du Layon region, producers of Quarts du Chaume are legally allowed to label their wines as “grand cru” from the 2010 vintage forward. The new AOC regulations for the appellation bar
cryo-extraction and require a new minimum 85 g/l of residual sugar, up from a prior 34 g/l. Quarts du Chaume now mandates the highest minimum residual sugar level of any non-fortified wine in France. With the approval of the “grand cru” designation for Quarts du Chaume, producers of Chaume (a geographic designation for Coteaux du Layon) may once again label their wines “premier cru”.
In addition to Mesland, Amboise, and Azay-le-Rideau, Touraine AOC/AOP has 2 new subzones, Oisly and Chenonceaux. White wines from both subzones are produced solely from Sauvignon Blanc. Reds from Chenonceaux are blends of Cabernet Franc, Cot, and Gamay.
South of Touraine and Anjou, the former VDQS Haut-Poitou has been elevated to AOC/AOP status. Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc are the principal grapes for the region’s white, red, and rosé wines.

In Central France, near St-Pourçain, Côtes d’Auvergne is now AOC/AOP.

Alsace and Lorraine:

Moselle joins Côtes de Toul as an AOC/AOP of Lorraine. The region’s principal grapes are Pinot Noir and Auxerrois.
In Alsace, Riesling now has a maximum required residual sugar level. All varietal Riesling from Alsace AOC/AOP may contain no more than 9 g/l of residual sugar, making the wines effectively dry. This does not apply wines labeled “Vendanges Tardives” or “Sélection de Grains Nobles”, nor does it apply to Grand Cru wines or wines labeled as a lieu-dit. This applies from the 2008
harvest forward.
Several new geographic designations join Klevener de Heiligenstein under the Alsace AOC/AOP: Blienschwiller, Côtes de Barr, Scherwiller, Vallée Noble, Val Saint Grégoire, Wolxheim, Ottrott, Rodern, Saint-Hippolyte and Côte de Rouffach.

Southern France and the Rhône

In Provence, white wines have been added to the Les Baux de Provence AOC/AOP. Going forward, Rasteau’s VDN wines will be labeled in a manner similar to Rivesaltes. White VDN wines are either “blanc” or “ambré”, indicating either a fresher or a more oxidative, tawny style. Red VDN wines are “grenat” or “tuilé”. Maury and Banyuls have adopted these terms as well.

Maury AOC/AOP may now produce non-fortified, dry reds. Maury and Baixas, which appeared as subzones for Côtes du Roussillon-Villages in early 2011 on the INAO’s official site, are not listed in the appellation’s most recent revision of its regulations. Languedoc’s system of Grand Crus and Grand Vins is seemingly still under discussion and revision. As of the close of 2011, the Languedoc AOC/AOP subzones La Clape and Pic-St-Loup have not yet achieved AOC/AOP status.
In Southwest France, a number of former VDQS zones now enjoy AOC/AOP status: Estaing, Entraygues-Le Fel, Brulhois, Côtes de Millau, Coteaux du Quercy, Saint-Mont, Saint Sardos, and Tursan.
The subzone “Bellocq” in Béarn has been eliminated.
The minimum percentage of Tannat in the Madiran encépagement has been raised to 60%.

Cheers,
Guild of Sommeiliers
info@guildsomm.com

Cheers indeed!

Jan 032012
 

Through the BungholeWelcome to Through the Bunghole—and irreverent look at the wine industry, from the inside out.

Our vision here is simple:  The wine business is just too darn entertaining to ignore.

And like Monty Pythons’ Doug Dinsdale, we expect to make full use of the English Language:  “…sarcasm.  He knew all the tricks; dramatic irony, metaphor, pathos, puns, parody, litotes and …satire.  He was vicious.” Well, we’re not going to be too vicious.

But we are going to have fun.  And we are going to talk about wine in a different way.  Because we don’t think that the essence of wine is all about pH or TA.  It’s not about the level of toast in the barrels or the size of the pebbles on the western slope of the vineyard. Nor do we think that points of any scale have a role in the world of wine, any more than they do in the world of art or music—How about that Boston Symphony?  At least 93 points!  And if the trumpet hadn’t blown that fanfare, it would have been 95 easy!

Please.

Did you like it?  Would you drink it again?  Would you pay money for it?  Did it make your meal taste better?

And so we say proudly:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one blog to dissolve the tired old technical mumbo jumbo which has connected the world of wine to the death of pleasure, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of all mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to this action.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of the wine they like best.  That to secure these rights, wine blogs are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the readers.

And so, dear readers, we beg your consent to continue.

“Ladies and gentlemen: the stories you are about to  read are true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.”

Only sometimes, we won’t change the names.

There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.