Fires savage Napa and Sonoma

On Sunday night, a fire got out of control somewhere north of the Bay. Seasonally dry conditions had left the area like a tinderbox. So when whipping winds of up to 70 mph hit the initial flames, they spread, well, like wildfire. Tragically, the blaze has now prompted the evacuation of 20,000 people, burned over 1,500 homes, incinerated 73,000 acres and left 11 people dead.

Santa Rosa in Sonoma has been hit particularly hard. The flames have also jumped to Napa and Mendocino counties.

The NYT has some shocking photos from before and after. SFgate has coverage too–the video with the homes crackling as they burn really pulls on the heart strings. And this video driving down a street after the Tubbs fire is haunting. And these photosEsther Mobley of the SF Chronicle has been tweeting tons of updates.

The vintage 2017 may be tough in many parts of the wine world, but this is by far the worst.

Hail strikes Burgundy and Beaujolais — again

Climate change is a bitch. Severe weather events have roiled wine growing areas with depressing regularity in recent years. Burgundy seems to be on the forefront of this plagued by floods, hail storms, late frosts and other events that have reduced (or in some places even eliminated) the crop.

Jeremy Seysses, owner and winemaker at Domaine Dujac, posted the above photo to instagram along with this description.

Yesterday night, 10th July, brought heartbreak in the form of hail. Of our vineyards, the top of the hill of Morey was hit hardest, Monts Luisants worst, probably 30-40% damage; Clos St Denis and Clos de la Roche next, then Combottes. Bonnes Mares had minor damage. The rest of the domaine seems ok. The leaves like they were put through a shredder. The fruit is pummeled. The shoots battered. We’ll still make some wine, though!

There was also severe weather in Beaujolais for the second year in a row…gah! I feel sorry for the vignerons who try to make a living in this increasingly unpredictable endeavor.

Warriors toast NBA title with actual champagne!

The Golden State Warriors won their second NBA title in three seasons last night. As a hoops fan, the most impressive stat for me was 147 assists on 216 made baskets–teamwork! But as a wine geek, we here at the Dr. Vino World Headquarters had to wonder…what would the team pop to celebrate in the locker room?
Would the owners cheap out as so many MLB owners do and use bubbly that could be picked up at any 7-11 on the way to the stadium?

We asked a Russian to hack the feed from the locker room to see what they sprayed. (Okay, our source was actually ESPN’s Darren Rovell.) This Warriors team did not hold back! To celebrate this title the doused each other with magnums (natch) of Moët Impérial “Golden Luminous”–a limited edition of the Moet nonvintage that Rovell says are valued at $1,200 each. (Search for this wine) Given the size of the ice bucket, that could have set the owners back about $200k, if the bubbly wasn’t donated by LVMH.

If you want to celebrate in a similar style, the “regular” Moet Imperial is about $40. Or get a more singular wine with a grower Champagne for the same price. (Or even a new wave sparkler from the Golden State!) And throw in a Warriors Champions locker room towel for $17.99 and you can have a similar experience for a fraction of the price. Ski goggles optional. Read more…

Behold the drip-free wine bottle!

Wine drip stains on white tablecloths have a new nemesis and his name is Daniel Perlman. The biophysicist at Brandeis University discovered that all it took to eliminate the bane of (red) wine pourers everywhere is to etch a small groove at the top of the bottle under the lip. We can but hope this catches on widely.

drip-free-wine-bottleProfessor Perlman studied slo-mo videos of wine being poured from a bottle. He found that drips cling to side of a bottle because bottles are hydrophilic! Now if that sounds more than PG-13, don’t worry: it just means that the glass of the bottle attracts the drops of water (or wine) that then annoyingly cling to the side and make a big mess. He found that cutting a 2mm groove in the bottle with a diamond-studded cutting tool just below the lip was sufficient to break up the attachment issues between the glass and the wine. Behold the drip-free wine bottle! No wonder Perlman has 100 patents.

If this is effective and can be widely commercialized, then Perlman would have earned our enduring admiration–as well as a hallowed place at the eternal (stain-free) table aside Bacchus.

Brandeis University media release

Vote Emmanuel Macron! A blind tasting

The French presidential election is heating up. Polls show Emmanuel Macron defeating Marine Le Pen in the decisive second round on May 7 by 62-38 (yes, polls have been deceiving ahead of recent elections but this is a big margin).

We are single-issue voters around here and that issue is wine! Actually, that’s not true but we will roll with it. Recent French presidents have hovered at or near zero when it comes to passion for wine. Jacques Chirac’s tipple of choice was reportedly Corona. Nicolas Sarkozy famously didn’t even like wine. Current president Francois Hollande sell off a chunk of the presidential wine cellar–but he also canceled a lunch with the Iranian president after the guest insisted no wine be served.

Macron, a former minister of Finance who is a mere 39 years old, exhibits some wine savvy. Although he was raised in Picardy, not a region known for wine growing, he says that his grandparents told him that red wine was “guilt-free” since it is an antioxidant.

The journalists from Terre de Vins and Sud-Ouest conducted a wide-ranging interview about wine. Among other things, Macron admitted that a meal without wine would be “a little bit sad because wine is a part of the French table…our civilization.” He even talks about the pleasure of food-wine pairings! It may not seem like it since you’d expect all French presidents to support wine. But these are kind of fighting words right now as the rate of wine consumption has been in decline and the health crowd that takes a dim view of wine has been ascendant in policy circles.

Macron then submitted himself to a blind tasting with the journalists! (Video above) Can you imagine a leading presidential candidate doing that here? Usually they run away from it, heading toward beer, if anything. And a blind tasting? That’s high-risk stuff for anyone!

But Macron comports himself amazingly well, showing a breadth of knowledge (even though he did offer that the likes Miraval rosé, which comes from the estate of erstwhile Brangelina) as well as taste preferences (says he doesn’t like high-acid whites). He correctly guessed both a Bordeaux blanc and a Coteaux de Provence by region, and even the red he guessed as a Bordeaux but was off by a few appellation (trust me, it’s easy to make mistakes…). I’m sure he will pour some fun wines at the Elysée Palace over the next five years.

Wine class at Schoolhouse


How about some wine classes to shake off the winter blues (wait, what winter? It’s 70 degrees!)?

I’ve been doing a series of wine classes at Schoolhouse at Cannondale, a new American restaurant in Wilton, CT. Chef/owner Tim LaBant–friend of the blog–has been running some cooking classes and I’ve been doing some wine classes on select Tuesdays. Two of my classes are in the bag but two more are coming up in the next two weeks. On 2/28, we’ve got Pinot Envy in which we will taste and talk through seven pinot noirs. And on 3/7, we will Drink Like a Hipster with tasting and discussing seven natural wines. It will be fun!

Reservations required. Timing is 7:00 – 8:30. Tickets are $75. Please email Francesca f2f@schoolhouseatcannondale.com for reservations.

Wine import tax: Make American Wine Great Again?

american wineEconomic policy has about as much clarity as a tank of Puligny after batonnage right now. There’s some reasonable certainty about various reforms (ahem, tax cuts) but one area that is shrouded in mystery: how imports will be taxed.

Trump made trade a big issue in the campaign and has continued in the same vein, doing industrial policy via Twitter since the election. Some policy wonks think that a huge change in the tax on imports may be forthcoming. A House bill from last year sought to impose punitive tariffs on imports to shame big box retailers such as Walmart, Home Depot and Target in their purchases from abroad.

Neil Irwin, writing in Sunday’s NYT sums up a relevant part of the destination-cased cash flow system:

A company that spent $80 making something that it sold overseas for $100 would pay no tax on its earnings. A company that imported goods worth $80 from abroad and them sold them domestically for $100 would pay tax on the full $100.

Perhaps there would be a carve-out for wine and gourmet items from abroad? Who knows. It’s not clear if this bill was targeting the retailers as importers or retailers, a key distinction in the wine world since the two “tiers” are (mostly) legally separated. Either way, about one out of every three bottles of wine consumed in America comes from overseas and could be subject to a new import tax, if one becomes law. In certain areas, such as New York City, it’s more than one out of every three bottles that is imported. And certain wine lists and shops feature imports as perhaps eight or nine out of every ten bottles on the shelf/list.

Would such tariffs be legal under the WTO? Does Trump care? Would there be retaliation against US products in overseas markets? Again, not a lot of clarity here.

But if there were a wine import tax or “border adjustments,” would it make American wine better? Probably not. US producers cannot make enough wine to keep up with US consumption. And stylistically, imports can be quite different. So it might be craft beer producers that emerge as the real winners of such a policy.

Again, there’s so little that’s been fleshed out beyond 140 character nuggets or campaign epithets. More will come in the coming weeks and months. Until then, drink up, foreign or domestic.

Wine on the wing: Emirates wine program

Apparently there’s a real rivalry among airlines for first class wine service–although you’d never guess it in the back of the bus where the wine selections are generally bad enough to drive a wine to beer.

A piece in Bloomberg details how Emirates has splashed out over $40 million a year on wine for the last twelve years. No comparative metric is given in the story (how much do other leading airlines spend on wine?) but it sounds like a big number to me.

Joost Heymeijer, who runs in-flight catering at the airline, details their buying strategy, which, interestingly, involves buying and then storing wines in a “Fort Knox-style” facility in Burgundy: The Emirates stash currently has almost 4 million bottles slumbering, some of which have escalated in value.

Sadly, that seems to be the point as Heymeijer said in the story: “It’s an investment. We look at it like a commodity.” Ugh. When they buy, they buy in 10,000 bottle lots, often from Champagne and Bordeaux. But they have even snapped up Burgundy, buying 2,000 cases of Corton-Charlemagne, cited as a tenth of the total production of the appellation.

They do pull some corks though, serving 9 million glasses of champagne last year, among other things. Check out the story for more details.

One amusing item appeared in the kicker. Asked about the Bordeaux 2015 vintage, Heymeijer replied “Not as good as 2010, but in Saint Emilion, Passat, and Margaux, it will be very good, probably better than the 2010.” Ah, yes, the renowned Passat appellation…probably a transcription error, but, yes, a case of top Bordeaux does sometimes go for about the same as a new Passat.
Read more…


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