G.D. Vajra in Barolo – “clean traditionalist”

giuseppe vajra Giuseppe Vaira was caught in a fight when he was in elementary school. It wasn’t the sort of meet-you-at-the-bike-racks kind of thing. No, it encapsulated what might happen only to the son of a winemaker, or even the son of a Barolo winemaker. He was classmates with two other kids who were also from wine families. One said proudly that he was the son of a modernist winemaker while the other said proudly that she was the daughter of a traditionalist. No doubt, both the kids harrumphed, crossed their arms, and turned their backs to each other.

Giuseppe was flummoxed. Which camp did his family winery fall into? Read more…

New York City has the world’s best wine lists: WFW

WFW Infographics World sm

New York City has the most top wine lists in the world according to a new ranking from the World of Fine Wine. London is second, San Francisco third, and Chicago fourth according to the British publication, which rolled out the annual awards for best wine lists for the first time this year.

Instead of taking the measure of a wine list’s length, the panel of experts looked at quality. Here’s how Neil Beckett, the magazine’s editor put it in a press release, “As we were judging, we had in mind the wise words of our fellow judge Francis Percival about the difference between ‘a great wine list and a mere list with great wines on it’.” More about the wine list judging methods can be found on the WFW site. It is not immediately clear if the restaurants had to pay a fee in the nomination process. And it’s not clear if value/markups played a role in the deliberations.

In all, 224 restaurants achieved the top grade, a three-star rating. The list of New York’s 36 restaurants follows after the jump. Read more…

Burgundy gets hammered (by hail) — again

hail burgundy
A violent hailstorm sprayed large hailstones over some Burgundy vineyards leaving many incipient grapes destroyed. Anne Parent of Domaine Parent in Pommard, described the violent storm as a “like a machine-gun attack” of the vines, even though it lasted only three minutes.

While the damage has yet to be tallied across the region, some initial assessments are putting the loss at 40 – 90 percent of the crop with Volnay, Pommard, Meursault, and Beaune getting hit the hardest. “It’s a catastrophe,” said Jean-Louis Moissenet, the president of the Pommard winemakers’ association was quoted in The Telegraph as saying. “We were heading for a good year, but now that has fallen through.” Last year, the region was also hit by a devastating hailstorm.

The effects were localized. Jeremy Seysses of Domaine Dujac in Morey St Denis tweeted: “At this point, impacted berries that should dry out and fall off. Canopy seems mostly OK in CdN [Cotes de Nuits].”

Some growers have tried to use “hail cannons” (a rudimentary one pictured below; others here), which fire silver iodide into the atmosphere in an attempt to turn the hailstones into rain. The effectiveness of these machines is debated.

In other parts of the world, growers put hail nets in place to protect fruit, including grapes and other fruit trees. Even though they are less pleasing to the eye than simply rows of vines, AOC rules sometimes disallow nets. Further, some skeptics of nets say that they reduce the amount of light the plant receives. But should they be allowed?

The hailstorm is very sad news that will undoubtedly make some growers re-think pinning their financial hopes on the roulette of Mother Nature. And it will likely reduce the crop from some of my favorite appellations, which will compound the problem of rising Burgundy prices. Read more…

France to ICANN: You can’t!

The French government is not happy about the prospect that internet users will soon be able to type in .wine and .vin instead of .com.

Mercifully, it isn’t another example of France’s bizarre neo-Prohibitionists at work again. Instead, the Minister of Digital Affairs (!) is protesting the new internet suffixes, known as generic top-level domains (or gTLDs), on the basis that cybersquatters could pluck such cherries as champagne.wine or bordeaux.vin right out of the ether, while having nothing to do with the wines of the region. Since these are protected names under international treaty, France is threatening Read more…

Union Square Cafe is the latest victim of rentmageddon

A few weeks ago, Wylie Dufresne announced that he had been forced to close his pioneering restaurant WD-50 on the Lower East Side as of 11/30. The reason is that the building will be razed and a new apartment building will go on the site; and said he hoped to reopen elsewhere soon. Then Rouge Tomate announced they will be leaving their spacious locale next to Barney’s as of August 9, citing rent. They will be relocating to an unspecified location “downtown” later this year.

Now, the monstrous Rentmageddon sweeping the NYC restaurants has claimed another scalp: Union Square Cafe. The iconic restaurant that opened 30 years ago on East 16th street and contributed to revitalizing the Union Square has fallen victim to rising rents and will close at the end of next year. USQ also hopes to move to a new location, though one has not been announced. Julia Moskin has a good, if sad, story on the trend in the NYT that is today’s must-read. She says that USQ paid $8/sf or $48,000/yr back when it opened; now the rent may be as high as $650,000 as international retailers, banks, and pharmacies have driven up rents. She also mentions that Marco Canora and partners at Hearth restaurant have been hit with a 65% increase in rent–this year.

Moskin asks Danny Meyer, whose other restaurants include Gramercy Tavern and The Modern as well as Shake Shack, why he doesn’t just pay for a renovation and the increased rent out of his own pocket? Because it doesn’t make financial sense, he says, making the analogy that it would be like doing a million-dollar renovation on a studio apartment.

In twisting the knife for fine dining, the landlord is quoted as saying that he thinks a Shake Shack would do well in the space.

Wine economics: How much does that bottle cost?

economics wine Have you ever wondered about wine economics–what are the costs of a bottle of wine? While the industry, made up mostly of private companies, often keeps margins shrouded in mystery, I spoke with one vintner who broke down the price of barrels, corks, grapes as well as the three tiers for me. And since that vintner was Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena and Barrett & Barrett, he offers perspective on a range of (higher-end) wines. I also dig up some info on lower-end wines.

Margins are something that always pique the interest of consumers. So check out the piece over on wine-searcher.com and let us know your thoughts.

The quest for vin glou-glou in California

vineyard cali
While the story of the stylistic shift in California winemaking (dubbed, inter alia, the “New California”) is arguably the most exciting story in American wine in the last decade, one aspect has been a stumbling block: price. Particularly as it relates to lower-priced, highly drinkable wines, known variously as vin de soif or glou glou wines. It’s something we’ve discussed, oh, here, here, here, and here previously.

So I was glad to see Wine & Spirits taking up the topic in their June issue. Their piece points to the price of grapes as the main obstacle, saying that at $1,000/ton, it’s possible to make a $20/bottle wine but $2,000/ton is “pushing it.” This has pushed the glou glou producers to far-flung parts of California and to pursue less premium varieties that are still refreshing.

Given that a wine that sells for 2 euros at a small domaine could easily sell for $10 here after all the markups, another way to make domestic glou glou production more financially viable would be to sell directly to consumers. Alas, given the three-tier system, that would reduce it to in-state sales. But even if drinking a glou glou wine were only an option locally in California? There’s still a lot to be said for that.

Coravin halts sales because of exploding wine bottles

Screen Shot 2014 06 02 at 11.15.55 PM Coravin, the maker of a wine preservation device that costs $300, has stopped selling new units and urges owners of existing units to stop using the device because of a hazard of exploding bottles. In a release, the company says it knows of seven bottles that have exploded with one causing lacerations to the user. The company is working on a solution.

The Massachusetts-based start-up has raised over $11 million in stock and bond offerings. The product, formerly known as the Wine Mosquito since a needle pierces the cork to extract wine one glass at a time and inject inert gas to preserve the rest, has garnered praise as well as provoked some trepidation among collectors.

The full notice follows after the jump. Read more…


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