Michael Broadbent, founder of the wine department at Christie’s, has sued Random House publisher of The Billionaire’s Vinegar (buy on amazon). The Daily Mail writes: “The Broadbent claims the book suggests he invented a bid for another of the Jefferson wines – a half-bottle of 1784 Margaux – to ensure the successful bidder paid more than was necessary.” Random House will defend the lawsuit. The Billionaire’s Vinegar is also being made into a movie. (Image: The Daily Mail)
The NYT summarizes the effect of the recession on the California wine industry: “Brutal.” It continues: “Cash may be trickling, but anxiety is gushing forth.”
SWISHED: retail change in NY
A proposal to reform New York’s retail and allow wine sales in supermarket failed earlier this year. One state Senator has introduced new legislation that would allow not only wine sales in supermarkets but also food sales in wine stores and a “medallion” system instead of licensing. Owners could operate more than one location in New York, also a change. Time will tell whether this initiative fares differently. [LoHud]
SIPPED: ultra low prices
An (unlabeled) Australian wine is selling for $1.99 at a store in Sydney, or “cheaper than water.” Meanwhile, John Brecher and Dorothy Gaiter estimate that the value of juice in Fred Franzia’s new Down Under Chardonnay (retail: about $3) costs “about 35 U.S. cents or less.”
SPIT: stems on Air France
Air France has introduced a new line of stemless wine glasses in Business and First (aka Affaires and La Première). Are the wines served any good? Hit the comments with your on-board experiences.
Earlier this year on this blog, we put our heads together to try to come up with a name for port style wine, made in America. Well, thanks to a new bilateral accord with the EU, Australian winemakers found themselves in a similar situation of needing to find a new name. And here’s what they came up with: nothing. That’s right, they will scrap use of the word “port” and describe their fortified, port-style wines as either “vintage” or “tawny,” depending whether it is from one vintage or a blend of several and whether it is aged in bottle or in barrel.
However, other fortified wines whose names conflicted with European place names have gotten new names. Heretofore, when ordering a glass of sherry style wine made Down Under, the proper term to use is Apera, which is a gentle riff on aperitif. And the wines formerly known as Tokay, a name that clashed with the sweet wine from Hungary, will now be known as Topaque. Eegad, that sounds like something from a medicine chest, not a liquor cabinet.
But if the Australian group for renaming fortified wines had listened to one suggestion they might have come up with something zippier. At a recent tasting, a non-Australian member of our group described these unctuous sweet wines as “lickoffable,” as in you want to drizzle them on your partner’s body and lick it off. Yikes! What a way to boost…sales!
James Godfrey (pictured right), winemaker for thirty years at Seppeltsfield in the Barossa Valley, told me that he saw the new names as an opportunity. The term sherry has “a lot of baggage,” he said, elaborating that the new name will give them an opportunity to energize their new category of aperas, including dry, medium dry and medium sweet (which replace Fino, Amontillados and Oloroso), with younger consumers.
To find the names, a trade group generated about 200 names that could still be trademarked and then ran them by some producers, journalists, sommeliers and shop owners to come up with a list of 20 finalists. Then they surveyed 600 consumers to come up with the winners, apera, topaque, vintage and tawny. (If you want to see more on their strategy for developing the “New Era” names, check out their incredibly detailed report here as pdf.)
What do you think about the new names? A clean break or sour grapes? And what of “lickoffable”?
And stay tuned for part two of this exciting story to see what I call it when I actually taste a bottle of Topaque!
Although I’d like this photo post to speak 1,000 words on its own, I’ll add a few of explanation.
In the foreground, Dean Hewitson stands in the Old Garden vineyard, which was planted in 1853 and grows today without irrigation. As you can see, the bush vines lie in unruly rows since they aren’t trellised. I tried the 2002 Old Garden Mourvedre and it had gamey aromas characteristic of the grape, as well as dark fruits and smooth sweet tannins. (find this wine; I’ll have to stick it in a blind tasting of mourvedres if I do one of those again.)
In the photo, the lights visible on the hill beyond Dean are illuminating the vast Orlando (Jacob’s Creek) wine making facility. Consider it a study in contrast.
We visited the vineyard at dusk and on the way back to the car, I heard a kookaburra laugh echo across the vineyard. For all you birders out there, you can see/hear the kookaburra here.
Eyebrows arching, James Halliday spots an opening and intercepts the ball. He dribbles to the other end of the court, pulls up for a jumper right before the three point line, shoots, and scores! Orlando over the Lakers at the buzzer!
Okay, Halliday, the 71 year old former vintner and author of some fifty wine books, wasn’t really in the NBA finals. But a tasting last week in the Barossa Valley did showcase some of Australia’s most amazing wines of all time. By showcasing talent old and new, it was kind of like one of those sports questions about who would be better head-to-head, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs LeBron James or Hank Aaron vs A-Rod kind of thing. While the younger wines showed some flash, for me it was the seniors that stole the show. Read more…
I’m back from the fantastic Landmark Australia Tutorial. Above is a picture of (some of) the wines opened during the tremendous five days. Yes, it’s 249 bottles of wine on the wall!
Over the next few days and weeks, I’ll be posting on and off some of highlights of the conference/event, sharing my new found knowledge. Really, I could post about each and every session since they were all so interesting and informative. But I’m not turning this into an Australian wine blog (though I do wonder why there isn’t one of those focusing on the lesser-known wines; it could even be called “beyond the fruit bomb”). If you’d like to have a similar experience applications are apparently now open for the Tutorial in 2010.
After the jump, check out the above lineup in motion as I walked down the line with the video rolling. Also, check out a complete list of wines, broken down by session. Read more…
One question that led me to Australia is whether Australian Riesling can age. The wine is almost always released within a year of harvest so the tendency is to drink it young when it can be very refreshing. Riesling from Australia tends to be dry and is almost always bottled under screwcap now.
The youngest Riesling I’ve tasted was a tank sample of the 2009 Jacob’s Creek Steingarten Riesling. The Steingarten vineyard was originally about 1000 vines planted in the 1960s at the top of Trial Hill, a windy spot on the edge of the Eden Valley. At the outset, it was a single vineyard wine of tiny production. But now although most of the vines come from an altitude of 500 meters, it makes no claim to be site specific; the Steingarten name is a brand. The tank sample was brimming with citrus intensity but not yet really formed as a wine. The 2005, by contrast, was in a very nice spot, exhibiting more muted lime and floral character. The 1998 was oddly phenolic and, while quite solid, not as rewarding today as the 2005. Read more…
Down under, thousands of liters of a certain white wine are resting in tanks right now. The only trouble is that nobody’s sure what to call it once it’s bottled.
In the 1980s, the Australian research institute CSIRO imported what they thought were Albariño vines from Spain. Eventually, market demand led to propagation of the vines; about 70 producers make it today.
But a couple of years ago Jean-Michel Boursiquot, a expert vine identifier (who knew?) from the University of Montpellier, spotted the vine thought to be Albariño and suggested that it was, in fact, the savagnin blanc grape often found in the Jura region of France (who in Australia will be the first to make it in an oxidative, vin juane style?). The Australian authorities confirmed this earlier this year, after the harvest but before bottling. Thus the producers can no longer call it Albariño and there’s no consensus on whether they should adopt the Savagnin Blanc labeling or even try Traminer, it’s genetic twin. But time is ticking as bottling time approaches.
Any thoughts? Here were some suggestions that came up in our seminar this afternoon:
* The grape formerly known as Albariño (actually a symbol)
* I can’t believe it’s not Albariño! (Credit goes to Max Allen)
Further reading: “Albariño and Savagnin, Mencía and Jaen” [Jancisrobinson.com]
Over the past couple of decades, Australian wine has seen two tremendous, parallel booms, one at the low end and one at the high end. But now the industry is now suffering through a bust, particularly acute at the higher end.
This epic tale has received attention from other wine journalists recently including Jay Miller’s February article in the Wine Advocate (“Australia: Into the Abyss”), Jancis Robinson in the FT (“How Australia went down under“), and Mike Steinberger in Slate (whose memorable line was “Foster’s may be Australian for beer (mate); it appears that screwed is now Australian for wine.”). Read more…