Why is champagne getting drier?

peter_wasserman_175Champagnes seem to have been getting drier in recent years. What’s driving the trend? I put the question of declining Champagne dosage levels to Peter Wasserman today. Wasserman, along with his mother Becky, exports several grower champagnes including Godmé Pere et fils, José D’hondt, Camille Savès, and Vazart-Coquart.

Wasserman said there are three main reasons. First, climate change. As harvest gets longer, the pick dates get later meaning that the fruit is riper, as he put it being harvested at “optimum maturity. So there’s less searing acidity that needs balancing with the addition of the liqueur d’expedition.

Second, the wines are seeing more time on the lees. A decade ago, it was common for grower champagnes to give the wines two and a half years on the lees, spent yeast cells that imbue the wine with more flavor as it remains in contact with them. Now, three or four years is not uncommon. This depth of flavor also reduces the need to add sugar.

Third, the global sommelier culture is driving dosage levels lower. Sommeliers, he said, taste a lot of wines and especially value light and bright champagnes. They wield an outside influence today.

On that last point, I asked him if people talk dry and drink sweet? Absolutely, he said, modifying it to “drink rounder.” Even if somms like the drier style, not all of their customers do.

“Our three best selling champagnes all have 8 or 9 grams of residual sugar,” he said.

Steering away from an outright amount residual sugar, he said, “The Holy Grail is balance.”

Matthew McConaughey signs on to The Billionaire’s Vinegar

mcconaugheyWine may well be splashing on the silver screen with Matthew McConaughey in a starring role. Deadline reports that the star of Dallas Buyers Club and True Detective will headline the cinematic adaptation of the Billionaire’s Vinegar.

I’m glad the project is moving ahead. It’s based on the terrific book of the same name by Benjamin Wallace. Will Smith had reportedly picked up the rights to the project back in 2008; when I called Escape Artists Entertainment in 2012 for an update, I was told that there’s “No director. No talent. No new news.” Clearly the project has gained newfound momentum. Read more…

Spaetburgunder: German for pinot noir

german_pinot_noir
Germany has the third largest amount of pinot noir planted, trailing only France and the United States. In fact their total acreage eclipses both Australia and New Zealand’s pinot noir plantings combined. (The local name for the grape is Spätburgunder.)

Such is a factoid that I learned yesterday at ProWein, the annual wine trade megashow in Düsseldorf. The seminar was entitled “Germany’s Pinot Noir Miracle,” which probably could have been an awesome German compound word “Spätburgunderwunder” if it only existed. Anne Krebiehl, originally from Baden and now living in England led the session in full cry. “If you cut me, I will probably bleed Spätburgunder,” she said pinning her colors to the mast early. Read more…

File under classy: Southern wine reps taunt former supplier

Wine made Page Six! This should be good, right?

The NY director of sales and the district manager at Southern Wine & Spirits (SWS), one of the country’s behemoth wine and spirits distributors, hold the honor. According to the NY Post, they lost Laurent-Perrier champagnes from their portfolio. So they decided to go to a night club, The Hustler Club, order two bottles of the wine for $1,000, then be photographed dumping the wines out. Oh, and one of the pictures had a stripper fondling the sales director’s crotch.

Badda bing! Then they sent the pix to Sabine Lapatie of Laurent-Perrier. Keepin’ it classy! Small wonder Laurent-Perrier left Southern. See the pix over at nypost.com

Since the Post story, Southern says that the two have been suspended pending an investigation into what it called the “disturbing allegations.”

Eataly: a lot of pasta

eataly_pasta
Fast Company has a piece on Eataly, the enormous and enormously successful (grocery) store with restaurants inside it. For those who haven’t been, the stores have an innovative concept that harkens back to an olde tyme market with different vendors for fish, meat, and pasta, interspersed with fresh fruit and vegetables, dried pasta and olive oils, restaurants of various themes, a wine store (now back), a rooftop beergarden, a wine bar, an espresso bar, a gelateria, and a bookstore. My kids never want to leave when we’re there. Eataly NY is a collaboration with Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s B&B Hospitality Group.

No surprise, but it turns out that they’ve been doing very well: Nicola Farinetti, the 30-year-old CEO, tells the magazine that the New York City location has $85 million in revenues; the Chicago location will hit $50 million in sales. New locations in LA, Boston and a second NYC location in the World Trade Center are forthcoming. Eataly started in Italy in 2007 and now has 15 locations there and has 11 in Japan. London, Hong Kong, Moscow, Munich, Paris, São Paulo, Sydney, and Toronto all are in line to get locations.

That is a lot of pasta. Surely, even though the Fast Company story doesn’t mention it, after Shake Shack’s recent IPO, they have to be thinking of a public offering somewhere, sometime.

The drought files: Calera edition

california_drought

Drought has been wreaking havoc on all of California, including the wine industry. Producers have varied their responses to it, with some irrigating as much as they still can and others calling for “dry farming.”

jensen_caleraYesterday, Josh Jensen (right) of Calera Wine told a packed seminar at the In Pursuit of Balance tasting in New York about his approach. He irrigates his 84 acres of hillside vines in the Gabilan Mountains (south of the Santa Cruz Mountains). Initially, when water was more available, he watered three hours at a time, four times a year. Then the increased those durations to six-, 12-, 24-hour “sets” or dousing through the drip irrigation. He finally reached 48 hours, arguing that a prolonged watering saturated the vines to the deepest level, sending the root deeper down.

However, now, with water scarce, he has to truck water up to 1,200 feet to feed the drip lines. He said that for seven months last year, he sent five truckloads of water a day up to fill reservoir tanks to feed the irrigation lines. In total, Calera brought up 1.8 million gallons of water, sourced from a neighbor. And even with that, the vines eked out a yield of 0.6 tons per acre.

Contents under pressure (Champagne)

champagne_pressure1

During the recent week-long episode of “deflate-gate,” another dad at a youth basketball game leaned over and asked me, “How do you feel about the important matters of our day, such as Tom Brady’s balls?”

Frankly, I hadn’t heard so much talk about pounds per square inch since the last sparkling wine seminar I attended. So, for your reference, our senior pressure intern (PSI: balls and bottles) compiled the following infographic. Prosecco, from northeast Italy, has about 3.5 times atmospheric pressure in a bottle. Champagne bottle pressure is about 6 times (or, to sound super wonky, six bar). That explains the heavier bottle since it has to withstand more pressure. They are also made by different methods and use different grapes. Now, have a good date night. And don’t talk about football. :-)

Cold water on the “red wine myth”?

red_wine_pourResearchers have poured cold sauvignon blanc on the idea that red wine is good for your health. Eegad, it was all a chimera!

The new study, published in the British Medical Journal, makes a methodological point: previous studies looking at the effect of red wine an health had grouped respondents into drinkers and non-drinkers. But, they find using health data from England from 1998-2008, that lumping former drinkers in with teatotalers in the non-drinker pool brought down the overall health of the non-drinkers. Looking just at the teatotalers, the health effect of red wine was reduced or eliminated across age groups.

But what about the enjoyment of a glass of wine pleasure and happiness extending or enriching life? (The paper doesn’t actually parse wine in the analysis instead relying on units of alcohol.)

Listen to one of the killjoys who wrote the study. Emmanuel Stamatakis, professor at the University of Sydney, told ABC.net.au “I think we have to put our results in the context of real life. Alcohol was consumed, is consumed, and will be consumed, so I think the moderate consumption method has still some value, providing that it’s put in the context of a broader healthy lifestyle.”

Wait, he’s not opposed to moderate wine drinking? Well, he continues! “I think, regarding the messaging, what is the main implication of our study, is to tone down quite a lot the messages around the protective effects of alcohol for health. I don’t think that we can be advising people to use alcohol drinking at the moderate level as a health promoting strategy, as a health promoting intervention.”

Oh, okay. But we already knew it took 35 bottles a day to reach the possibly effective dose of resveratrol.

“All cause mortality and the case for age specific alcohol consumption guidelines: pooled analyses of up to 10 population based cohorts” British Medical Journal


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