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…

Clos Rougeard sold to billionaire

rougeard“Winery X, in family for generations, sold to billionaire” is a headline that would normally barely raise an eyebrow. But the winery in today’s news is Clos Rougeard from the Loire.

Located in Saumur, Clos Rougeard is the Bentley of the Loire. The wines, almost all red, are expensive, rare and of exceptional quality–the kind of wines that can turn haters of cabernet franc into ambassadors. (search for Clos Rougeard at retail)

The 27-acre estate was owned by the Foucault brothers Bernard (a.k.a. Nady) and Jean-Louis (known as Charly). They were the eighth generation to run the estate and made it a pioneer of organic viticulture in the area as well as hands-off winemaking.

After Charly’s death in 2015, La Revue de Vin de France reports, the family resolved to sell the domaine. The buyer is Martin Bouygues, French telecom billionaire and 481st richest person in the world.

In a way it is kind of surprising that a billionaire is attracted to the Loire, which is generally a region that favors low-key wines and hasn’t attracted big fortunes to be tossed around since the day of Francois I. Perhaps that is changing? Doubtful. Clos Rougeard is arguably the pearl of the Loire, now snatched up as bauble for a billionaire. But at least he is discerning! And the estate doubtless cost less than one in Musigny. Bouygues owns Chateau Montrose in Bordeaux.

LARVF doesn’t report on changes in the wine making.

UPDATE: Yes, another “Winery X sold to billionaire” story appeared today–at this rate, will there be any family-owned and operated top wineries by the end of the year?? Stan Kroenke, owner of Arsenal football club and the LA Rams and Screaming Eagle, is said to have bought a majority stake of Bonneau de Martray. [Decanter]

Sour Grapes – wine fraud movie now on Netflix

sour_grapes_kurniawan
Sour Grapes recently went live on Netflix. Has Netflix recommended it to you yet? If not, you’re clearly not watching the right shows!

After speaking with one of the directors and seeing the trailer, I was ready to fire up the documentary when I saw it was available.

Sour Grapes tells the story of Rudy Kurniawan, the convicted (spoiler alert!) wine counterfeiter. We in the wine world know the story of how he came from nowhere in the early 2000s, ingratiated himself with some of the biggest collectors in the land, poured tens of millions of dollars into fine wine at auction, and then reversed and sold tens of millions of dollars of wine wine, including many fakes passed off as the world’s top wines.

But what is particularly compelling here is a trove of video of Kurniawan in action. Not only does he actually speak as opposed to the many court drawings we have seen of him, they actually have him utter the priceless line–in jest!–“I refill and put the cork back”! This old footage alone is reason for wine enthusiasts to see it. It’s fun to see some cameos for people in the wine world. (Though I still would like to see a movie version of this story told as fiction, with actors.)

It works as a movie too. I had a non-wine friend check out the film and he gave it a thumbs up. The film crew decamps to Burgundy to get some beautiful B roll footage; Laurent Ponsot comes off great in his role as inspecteur.

So put it in your queue, make some popcorn cooked with extra virgin coconut oil, and pop some champagne–just make sure it’s not a fake.

Read more…

Coravin uncorks $22 million in funding

coravinCoravin, the company formerly known as Wine Mosquito, has raised another $22 million in private equity funding. That brings the total equity sold to $40 million (plus another $3 million in debt). The lead investor of this round, closed on November 8, was not publicly disclosed. Neither were company revenues. Nor was the valuation.

The privately held company, based in Burlington, MA, sells a wine preservation/extraction device that uses a hollow needle to penetrate the cork of a wine bottle not unlike a mosquito if Bacchus designed mosquitoes. Over about 30 seconds, it injects argon gas to pressurize the bottle and then extracts a glass of wine without removing the cork. The device lists for about $300 retail and replacement argon canisters list at $18 a pair. That’s enough argon for about 30 glasses of wine.

While this price is low for restaurants compared to many by-the-glass systems, it does seem steep for consumers. Nonetheless, the company continues to raise capital at an astonishing clip. Sales were briefly halted in 2014 after complaints of exploding wine bottles. The company now recommends using a “wine bottle sleeve” when opening bottles.

The parody Twitter account @shitmysommsays recently tweeted “If you need a Coravin at home, you need more friends.”

The last company in the wine space to raise this much private equity was Lot 18, which raised $33 million in 2011.

UPDATE: Vivino, a wine app developer, raised $25,099,884 in private equity funding in January of this year.


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