Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Beer Fights Back
Wineblogs have been alive with the news that Gallup have found 39% of American drinkers said they drink wine most often, while only 36% said they drink beer most often.

Robin Abcarian of the LA Times writes “Is our country, in other words, on some ineffable road to effete?” Probably!

Can beer fight back? Well in Australia beer has no desire to lose its froth. Its an advertising war in which the first salvo is the Very Big Ad. Lampooning QANTAS and British Airways ads on a scale fit for Lord of The Rings the Carlton Draught ad comes from Foster's Australia.

The Fosters Group recently purchased SouthCorp which is the largest Australian-owned wine producer. So keep a lookout for an even bigger wine ad, maybe for something from Lindemans, Wolf Blass, Penfolds, Rosemount, or Wynns Coonawarra Estate! Perhaps aimed at the Chinese? Afterall there are a lot of beer drinkers to convert in China, and if that doesn't work there is always the Very Big Ad. My God its big!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A Little Humor Helps The Wine Go Down
When you sample wine for its flavor, you are supposed to suck a small amount past your teeth and let it dance on your tongue. Rrrrrright.

Our first wine was a California chardonnay. Our teacher poured some into our glasses, pardon me, stemware. I sniffed, swirled and examined. Then I put the wine into my mouth and let it dance. Sort of a samba. Someone asked what we should pair with this wine. One wisecracking female student suggested Brad Pitt. MORE->

This is the first time I've seen anything from Larry Johnston but I hope I see more of his writing style. Clearly he doesn't need to drink Bordeaux First Growths to have fun with wine.
Google Earth
Want to see your favorite vineyard from above? Find out where the nearest wine shops are to your home? Or just want to check out if there are vineyards in the Hunter Valley. You need Google Earth!

The blurb says Google Earth streams the world over wired and wireless networks enabling users to virtually go anywhere on the planet and see places in photographic detail. This is not like any map you have ever seen. This is a 3D model of the real world, based on real satellite images combined with maps, guides to restaurants, hotels, entertainment, businesses and more. You can zoom from space to street level instantly and then pan or jump from place to place, city to city, even country to country.

Get Google Earth. Put the world in perspective.

This really does put the world in your hands!
Australia’s Wine Stamps
Australia Post has released five stamps depicting various aspects of wine production and consumption. The stamps contain photographic quality images of a vineyard or ripe grapes on the two paired 50 cents stamps, harvesting and wine casks on the two paired $1.00 stamps, and red and white wine in wineglasses on the $1.45 stamp. A variety of different Australia Post products containing the wine stamps have been produced including booklets of stamps, a First Day Cover, and Maximum Cards. The latter is my choice to collect as the image on each card continues the theme depicted in the accompanying stamp.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Tasting Notes Update
I have added a few more tasting notes for 2003 Australian Shiraz to the Tasting Notes wine blog. Check them out.

I am desperately trying to catch up with all the tasting notes that need to be posted. I'll keep updates coming.
The Strengths of Australia’s Greatest Red – Shiraz
In the July 5th issue of The Age Jeni Port explores some of the features of Ausie Shiraz. It is not a particularly in-depth piece as it fails to cover all the regions that produce distinctive Shiraz in Australia. It is also limited in the number of wines that are chosen as representative of each region. But it’s a start if you are looking for a little information on major regional characteristics.

The Jelly Belly Wine Bar
Wine X Magazine can be pretty provocative and also downright irreverent when it comes to wine snobbishness. Their latest foray into the world of wine fun is to combine different Jelly Belly Beans to simulate the flavors of various varietals/styles of wine – The Jelly Belly Wine Bar.

Fun way to chew your Jelly Bellys although for oaked Syrah you need eleven different beans. And if you want to make it a French-Syrah you add a bit of dirt, Jelly Belly dirt that is. In fact whether its red or white any French varietal seems to require a little bit of dirt, even French Alsace riesling.

Friday, July 15, 2005

At Last Some Sound Advice on Decanting To Aerate Wine
I started reading this article by Janet Fletcher in the San Francisco Chronicle with little enthusiasm as it looked like the same old same old.

Many wine professionals also say that decanting softens the tannins in red wine, achieving in a few hours what might take years to transpire in a cellar. Barolo and Barbaresco -- the big, brawny Nebbiolo-based wines of Italy's Piedmont region -- are almost always decanted, ostensibly to mellow the tannins and release the bottle bouquet.

But then came this. According to UC Davis Enology Professor Roger Boulton, there is absolutely no evidence that decanting produces any change in wine tannins, at least over a matter of days. Tasters may perceive that the tannins have softened, but laboratory tests show otherwise.

So that is another academic to claim that there is no science to support the argument that decanting softens tannins.

And then came this. Nor does oxygen play the role that many wine professionals think.

"If (a wine) seems a little closed in, the very best thing you can do is give it some oxygen," says Ronn Wiegand, publisher of the newsletter Restaurant Wine, articulating a belief echoed frequently by his colleagues.

But Boulton says oxygen has nothing to do with the aromas that emerge when wine is poured into a decanter or glass. The same aromatic bloom happens in a nitrogen environment, with no oxygen present.

Like a soda that releases some of its carbon dioxide when opened but retains some bubbles in the drink, bottled wine holds many of its aromatic compounds in solution with some proportion of them clustered in the headspace. When the cork is pulled and the wine poured into a container with considerably more headspace -- a decanter or a glass -- those aromas in solution, good smells and bad ones, have somewhere to go.

Some compounds volatilize more quickly than others; stinky sulfides and acetic acid are among the first to blow off, which is why the initial perfume may not be a wine's best. On the other hand, the esters responsible for the fruity aromas in many white wines also evaporate early, so decanting a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris may diminish its attributes.

Depending on the age of the wine and the aromatic compounds it contains, this release of aromas into the headspace might continue for two to three hours. But for the typical 10-year-old wine, says Boulton, an hour of breathing time should do it; after that, the wine is probably losing more good aromas than bad ones. And no matter how long the taster waits, a wine with the undesirable aromas of cork taint or brettanomyces, a spoilage yeast, will never lose them.

Nor does one need a decanter to unleash the aromas in a bottle of wine. "You and I can pour the wine from the bottle into the glass and do the same thing," says Boulton. "It's only if you're a sommelier that your role in the world is to pour it into a decanter."

Yes! (fist pump). Great stuff, could not agree more with his interpretation. But just to be sure I’m still working on an approach that will allow me to compare decanted and undecanted wine from the same bottle to see how much aeration does change a wine.

Final note: Interesting that “enjoyed the last glass more than the first” raises its ugly head in this article. I’ve seen this comment many times as a justification for decanting or aeration. I’ll bet there is no science to back up this claim. And if you think about the number of variables involved in comparing the first and last glass of any bottle you might come to realize that the comparison is truly meaningless.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

No Rooster for Me
I don't ever remember buying or drinking any wines from Gallo, but I may have. However after this I most certainly will be avoiding them in the future. I could never enjoy any of their wines knowing they do this sort of thing. I'm even worried about just mentioning their name in this post.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A Very Good Year
There is a scene in the fictional movie Sideways in which Maya, the female lead, defines her character through her thoughts on wine. She says “I like to think about the life of wine, how it’s a living thing. I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were growing……..what the weather was like. I think about all those people who tended and picked the grapes, and if its an old wine, how some of them must be dead by now……..”. It’s a moving personalization of one individual’s intimacy with the life of wine. It is also a rare display of appreciation because the majority of wine lovers drink wine for the sensory and hedonistic pleasures it provides. Very few think about what it took to get the wine into the bottle they are pouring and enjoying.

This is not true of Mike Weiss, or perhaps more correctly his wife Carole Rafferty who asked “Did you ever think about all that goes into a bottle of wine?” From that simple question came a multipart series in the San Francisco Chronicle and then a book by Weiss. Entitled “A Very Good Year” this rather extraordinary volume traces the life of a California wine from vine to table. The wine is the 2002 Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc and for those interested in a general overview of the aspects of vineyard care and winemaking that produced this wine there is sufficient detail scattered among the 280 or so pages to hold one’s interest. And it is useful knowledge for those wanting to lean about how a wine is made, but “A Very Good Year” is more than about making wine.

Fermenting along with the wine are a number of other stories. Unintended as they may be it is the contrasts that draw you into this book and keep you reading page after page. There is, of course, The Story. It can make or break a wine and the Caranos have their story. More than just a family with wealth from Reno gaming looking to own a bit of Sonoma, there is a passion to succeed, to produce quality wine. Flip the gaming token and you have their Mexican vineyard workers laboring with their own desire to succeed for their families a distant border away. Weiss’s depiction of the lives of the vineyard workers and their families is the most vivid story behind California wine. And even then he has probably only scratched the surface.

The making of the 2002 Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc is also about underlying personality clashes, a protective winery owner criticized for his favoritism, a wine maker with an almost paranoid approach to his craft that is not shared by the junior staff, and a marketing maven with a monster ego. There is even a Deep Cork to provide the odd anonymous insight or two. And, perhaps ironically, there is also human birth, disease and death during the span of vine budding to cork pulling. “A Very Good Year” is very compelling reading for those who want to read about the lives that make a bottle of wine.

The only thing missing in “A Very Good Year” are some of the photographs that must have been snapped by the photographers that Weiss mentions several times in the text.

A Very Good Year: The Journey of a California Wine from Vine to Table by Mike Weiss (Gotham Books, 2005, 288 pages, $26.00USD Hardcover).

Disclosure: A complimentary copy of the book was supplied to me by Gotham Books.
Yellow Tail 7th Wine Brand in USA Restaurants
Restaurant Wine, a bimonthly journal on wine for the hospitality and wine industries, has released its listing of the Top 100 brands of wine sold in restaurants in the USA in 2004, ranked according to their estimated sales volume. The top 25 are in this news release. Number 7 on the list is Yellow Tail! Five other Aussie wines also made the listing, although they are not listed in the top 25.

It is interesting just how accepted Yellow Tail has become in the US. On the recent July 4th holiday I had a couple of people who have relatively good palates and drink wine every day tell me what great deals they get on Yellow Tail. I'm not a fan of the wines, but if you enjoy them drink up. Then be adventurous and spend a few $’s more on another wine, eventually you will get into a price/quality range where you will see why Yellow Tail is the lower rung on the ladder of wine experiences.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Shiraz Has A New Skin
As a temporary fix I've put Shiraz into a new skin. My old skin seems not to be available any more. In any case this new skin does not appear to have the formatting problem that has bugged Shiraz for the last few weeks. But don't get used to it because I intend to move as soon as I get time to put some ideas together for a more comprehensive wine blog.
Shiraz is Down at Present
If you have scrolled down this far then you will have realized that Shiraz has a formatting issue. Blogger does not seem to want to help me solve this problem. Its not my doing as I have just found that one of my other blogs (that I post to less frequently) has a similar formatting problem. So until I can resolve this issue I doubt that I will be putting up new posts on any regular basis. There are a few topics that I do wish to cover and I will be doing those posts in the next week or so. Meanwhile I will be looking for an alternative host for my blogging activities.