Archive for June, 2009

Bottles as bricks, jugs, sprawl, Holy wine – sipped and spit

SIPPED: reusing wine bottles
We like reusing corks. And we previously saw the 13,500 bottle wall house previously. And recently another bottle wall surfaced on reddit (though it may not be wine bottles). If this trend keeps up, a winery may soon make the equivalent of Heineken’s WOBO bottle, a brick masquerading as a bottle!

SIPPED: jugs
Dottie Gaiter and John Brecher recommend jug wines. But little jugs, really, just magnums. No Carlo Rossi. [WSJ]

SIPPED: viticultural sprawl
On Friday, the federal authorities that regulate wine gave the thumbs up to a new American Viticultural Area. And true to our rule, that the bigger they are, the more useless they are, this 29,914 square mile sprawlapalooza, our largest AVA, covers portions of Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin and will be known as the Upper Mississippi River Valley. The TTB writes in the announcing document (found here as pdf) “We designate viticultural areas to allow vintners to better describe the origin of their wines and to allow consumers to better identify wines they may purchase.”

SIPPED: divine intervention
An Italian priest blamed Holy wine he had consumed at four masses that day when he was pulled over–and arrested–for drunk driving. [Daily Mail]

Wine prices – beating the spread online and in-store

54371294_ad79ee1455_mOne of my friends told me that he recently was looking to get three bottles of one Chateauneuf du Pape. He found it online for $47.99 at a store in New Jersey, coincidentally, near where his mother lives. So he called the store and asked them to hold three bottles for his mom to pick up. But when confirming the transaction, the clerk told him that the wine was $58 a bottle.

My friend replied that it was actually $48 on their web site. The clerk said that was a web-only price and the price via phone and in-store was actually $57.99.

So he hung up and placed the order on the web for in-store pick-up. Read more…

Spot the 62 pointer – Viu 1 from Chile – and some Spanish

marinucci_posner1What does a 62 point wine taste like? Not that I follow scores for wine very much, but a 62 pointer? Man, that had to suck. Or, conversely, if you disagree with the critic giving the score, perhaps it was fantastic?

Daniel Posner (above, right), owner of the wine store Grapes The Wine Company, drew this review to my attention. The wine in question was the flagship Viu 1 from Viu Manent, a 75 year old winery in Chile. Writing in the Wine Advocate, Jay Miller had dropped the 62 on the 2006 while previous two vintages of Viu 1 scored 92 and 92+ respectively (about $60; find these wines).

So I dropped a line to Viu Manent through their web site and heard back from Jose Miguel Viu, managing director. He wrote: “We are in the process of evaluating the reasons why our wines were so poorly evaluated because, as you noticed, this is very unusual and was further aggravated by the fact that for the first time Wine Advocate decided to publish scores under 85 points…This is not to mention the excellent reception we have always had on other important publications. Viu 1 2006, for instance, became Wine Enthusiast Editor’s choice with 92 points on July’s 09 issue.” Read more…

Giveaway: Au Revoir to All That by Michael Steinberger

51vrbop5pll_sl500_aa240_At the G8 summit in the UK in 2005, reporters overheard Jacques Chirac murmur about the British hosts to some fellow world leaders, “One cannot trust people whose cuisine is so bad.”

The irony of this comment was not lost on Mike Steinberger. In his new book, after noting that London is now, actually, a great food city, he turns the tables on Chirac, saying, “Where once the mere mention of food by a French leader would have elicited thoughts of Gallic refinement and achievement, its invocation now served to underscore the depths of France’s decline. They’ve even lost their edge in the kitchen.

Mike is probably best known to wine geeks as the wine columnist for But in Au Revoir to All That: Food, Wine, and the End of France, available on Amazon today, he broadens his focus to include food, specifically, haute cuisine in France. Unlike much food writing, which is prone to sometimes excessive praise, Mike takes up the task of analyzing the decline of French food through the lens of a love lost. Imbued with nostalgia and occasional bafflement at the new French ability to turn gold into lead, Mike wolfs down raw milk camembert and praline mille feuilles, talks with leading chefs and restaurateurs, probes the inner workings of the Michelin Guide, cross examines bureaucrats, journeys to Spain, has a glass of water with the head of McDonald’s Europe, meets a struggling vintner who sold his house in order to keep his winery, and contemplates the lack of ethnic diversity in French restaurants with a Pakistani-born chef.

It’s a meaty tale that provokes thought and stimulates the palate: wine and food lovers will want to savor it this summer.

Thanks to Bloomsbury, the publisher, we have three signed copies of the book to give away to readers of this site. To qualify for the drawing, hit the comments below and tell us where you had your best (or at least a great) meal, restaurant and city. If you’re not feeling in an haute cuisine spirit, tell us about your favorite street food experience. Enter by Thursday to qualify; randomly selected winners will be announced here on Friday morning.
UPDATE: Slate has just posted an excerpt about “How the Michelin guide crippled France’s restaurants.”

Pine nuts, the whale, the anchor, Vinexpo – sipped and spit

SPIT: pine nuts!
Losing your senses appears to be all the rage. First, it was Zicam, with it’s new FDA warning against possible anosmia (loss of smell). Now: pine nuts! According to Britain’s Daily Mail, increasing numbers of people have been left with a “foul, metallic taste” in their mouth after eating the nuts and that taste may linger for two weeks. Their columnist describes his experience with “pine mouth:” “Though I regained my taste after eight days, the only thing I could drink during that time was water, and the only food that was bearable was salad leaves smothered in strong balsamic vinegar. Drinking wine was like swallowing liquid metal.” Talk about an impossible food-wine pairing!

2792754683_624a54e21a_mSIPPED: a whale tale
In a fascinating post that provides a look into the business of selling wine, Lyle Fass, formerly in high-end wine retail, posts to his blog about the death of “the whale,” namely, the big customer who orders $10,000 worth of wine with a single phone call. He describes his performance-based pay conundrum: “At my last retail job I was hired with the idea that I would get a cut of the profits from the whales I would bring to the store. I thought this was great. I made a lot of money and was happy selling wine to these whales. Never did I think in my wildest dreams that I would lose my job as the economy went in the tank. But I had a high salary and a high bonus structure and as a result, I was not bringing added value to the store anymore. I was a money vacuum. So I was rendered jobless.” He concludes by predicting that “the whale is not coming back for a long time, if ever.” [Rockss and Fruit]

SIPPED: Follow the leader
Web 2.0, user generated wine review, on sites such as cellartracker, theoretically shift the power of reviewing away from one critic and over to the masses. But using an illustration of one of his Tablas Creek wines, Jason Haas writes about the power of the first review as an “anchor,” which then can set a tone for subsequent reviews that’s hard to break.

SIPPED: hope
Vinexpo, the big wine trade show kicks off today in Bordeaux. AFP reports on a study from Vinexpo that forecasts worldwide wine sales rising to 390 billion euros in 2012 from the current 330 billion euros, citing increased demand from China and Russia. Global wine consumption softened last year.

Caption this: Battle of Wine


Writing in today’s WSJ, Melanie Grayce West describes the annual “Rioja rumble” known as the Batalla del Vino, or battle of wine: “After mass, the melee on the hillside begins and red wine is fired from buckets, jugs, water guns, crop sprayers and any other vessel possible—the goal is to drench everyone in sight with red wine.” The town of Haro graciously provides the wine. The photo from the event, held on June 29 this year, begs your captioning–sound off in the comments!

Some summer wine picks – and

Shiraz and Chardonnay account for half of the vineyard acres planted in Australia. For a quick taste of how the other half drinks, check out a piece that I wrote for

And if you’re feeling summery, surf on over to the James Beard blog for five of my summer wine picks.

But to reward all of you site readers here with some wine picks, I organized and led a fun tasting of seven summery wines last week at a residence on the Upper East Side. I’ll paste the list of wines below for your perusing, from lightest to fullest, with some reactions from the folks in attendance. Incidentally, as I was talking about rosé being the ultimate lunch wine, especially if it was lunch outside under an umbrella, one woman had a funny quip: Who actually has lunches like that? Ah, perhaps we need an impossible wine-place pairing: the office!

Nino Franco, Rustico, Prosecco. $16. very popular
Broadbent selections, Vinho Verde, 2008, $10. sort of popular
Binner, Gewurztraminer, 2005. $25. I liked it a lot, they didn’t (probably too rich for a warm evening)
Bernard Baudry, rosé, Chinon, 2008. $17 popular
Marcel Lapierre, Morgon, 2007. $24. A delicious wine, unanimously loved
Rossignol-Trapet, Bourgogne rouge, 2006. $23 very popular
Les Hérétiques, vin de pays de l’Hérault, 2007. $8 very popular

Search for these wines at retail

Olde tyme Sonoma marketing

I recently stumbled on this olde tyme ad from Sonoma (in the Yalumba winery museum in Australia of all places).

In case you can’t read it, the ad says “Sonoma Valley Sobriety Test #1: If you can’t say Gundlach-Bundschu Gewurztraminer, then you shouldn’t be driving!”

I’d venture to say that both the Gun-Bun marketing and Sonoma sobriety tests have changed.


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