Archive for the 'business of wine' Category

Joe Dressner, importer of “real” wines, dies at 60

Whenever my wife sees that a wine’s back label is from importer Louis/Dressner, she gets excited about the wine to follow. Rightfully so: Louis/Dressner has a portfolio bursting with terrific wines, from vineyard owners making their own wines with few, if any, interventions in the cellar. While Joe Dressner touted this side of his wines, calling his portfolio one of “real” wines, one aspect that receives less attention is that the book of his wines includes some of the best values on the planet, particularly in the $12 – $20 range. Jean-Paul Brun. Marc Ollivier (Dom de la Pepiere). Bernard Baudry. The Puzelat brothers. These vignerons have brought me great joy at reasonable prices. Thus it is sad that Joe Dressner died over the weekend.

Since I was always a fan of his wines, it was hurtful when Joe started leaving caustic comments on this blog in late 2008, a practice that he continued for about a year. It bugged me–and my wife. During that time, his wines became less fun to us. Joe had a brain tumor at that time and used a blog, The Amazing Adventures of Captain Tumor Man, as a way to cope. Eventually, he did apologize to me on Twitter. I was sorry not to have been able to penetrate his prickly, irascible persona better since I know that he had a razor-sharp, irony-drenched wit and was a man of conviction.

He was a pioneer in popularizing natural wines in this country. I offer my condolences to his family and his business associates. I look forward to raising a glass in his honor tonight.

A remembrance at Diner’s Journal

SIPPED: diary of a wine rep

Just stumbled on this fictitious (or not?!?) diary of a wine sales rep. Some LOLz for you whether you are in the wine trade or a wine geek who has ever wondered what it might be like selling the wines you love. The entry on the Languedoc gets two-and-a-half stars. Er, wait, they have wine to sell–92 points.

Chief bottle washer: the job is back in the wine biz

Chief Bottle Washer: the title is no longer just a punchline. Bruce Stephens is the CEO of Wine Bottle Renew, a California startup that washes and reuses wine bottles profiled in today’s Wall Street Journal.

“You take a bottle and you empty the bottle, and my God, why would that only be a one-time bottle?” Stephens tells the Journal. He points to the lost era of bottle washing in milk bottles, beer bottles and even Coke bottles.

Reusing a bottle is an important way to reduce wine’s carbon footprint. In a paper I co-authored on the subject, we found that the manufacture and delivery of empty bottles to the winery accounted for anywhere from about half to three-quarters (depending on bottle weight) of the carbon dioxide emissions of a wine locally produced and consumed, taking into account all of production and delivery phases, including the vineyard and winery operations. Recycling is good since in introduces a closed loop. But reusing is better since the energy demands are so much less than recycling.

While the amount of bottles that Wine Bottle Renew can clean in a day still is a drop in the bucket of California’s wine production, it’s good to see that industry heavyweights Kendall Jackson and Sutter Home have invested in the company, which may indicate eventual broader usage.

Obviously, there isn’t a standard shaped wine bottle today as there was for milk or Coke back in the day. But what do you think: if it encouraged reuse, would you favor wine bottle standardization? I would, especially if the bottles were lighter (14- to 19-ounces). Sparkling wine producers could be the first adopters since there is little variation among their bottles, the heaviest in the wine trade.

“For New Wine, Vintage Bottles” [WSJ]

You can’t call it that – Budini edition

I just got an email from the importer of a 17,000-case Argentine malbec called Budini, which will now be called Bodini. Here’s why:

Vine Connections recently made the decision (or should I say that we were strongly advised by some attorneys to make the decision) to change the name of the wine formerly known as Budini. It will now be called Bodini.

The Budini brand has been in existence since the 2002 vintage. We made the decision to change the Budini brand name because there is another alcoholic beverage company which aggressively protects its trademark that starts with the letters “B-U-D”.

Really, I don’t have any trouble telling the above two labels apart–do you? How many drunk (or sober) people are really going to order a Budini when they wanted a Bud–or vice versa?

What’s greater: “cooked,” “corked” or counterfeit wines? Some evidence

Heat damage might be the biggest silent killer in the wine industry–more even than corked wine, which has much greater renown.

In our recent discussion on “cooked” wine, Louise from eProvenance joined the discussion. Founded by Eric Vogt, a wine collector formerly of Boston Consulting Group, eProvenance can provide a detailed history of wine’s temperature during transit via an RFID tag inserted into either a case or tacked on to a pallet of wine.

Tracking 1,450 shipments in and between the Northern and Southern hemispheres, they assembled a fascinating report: eProvenance found that almost 10 percent of shipments were exposed to temperatures of 30 degrees celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) or more for 18 hours or more, a threshold ETS Labs found as significant a perceptible damage in wine. The report generously does not declare all that wine to be “cooked,” instead saying it is merely “at risk”; they suggest 2.8 percent of shipments as having perceptible damage.

Interestingly, some of the highest heat exposure comes not from the journey in the refrigerated container but rather the first and last miles of the journey, as the wine gets to and from the loading bays of wineries and shops. They estimate the monetary value of “at risk” wine to be about $9 billion and the heat-damaged wines to be worth about $2.5 billion.

While eProvenance clearly has an innovative technology to sell and thus may overstate the size of the problem, I am willing to go out on a limb and say that the quantity of heat-damaged wines represents a greater problem for wineries and consumers than counterfeiting. While the Jefferson bottles and their ilk may pose problems for the pinnacle of the wine world, heat-damage may be much farther reaching, especially as cheaper, high-volume wines are less likely to benefit from temperature control.

Heat damage, with its diminution of wine’s aromas and freshness that leads to bad consumer experiences, could well be on par with or a greater problem than TCA, or “corked” wines. If I were a vintner, I would strongly consider adding temperature tracking to every delivery and take corrective measures if problems arose in the supply chain. As a consumer, I’d welcome heat shipping data or a third-party certification on each bottle. But then again, I like data–almost as much as I like sipping a glass of wine that isn’t flawed. Read more…

How much wine outside the winery is cooked? #heatwave

These muggy days in the high 90s have New Yorkers sweltering. So it’s as good a day as any to wonder out loud how much of the wine we drink is at least partially heat-damaged, or, in wine geek vernacular, “cooked.”

It’s also been an extremely hot summer in much of Europe. Antonio Galloni considered the implications of this when at a domaine in Burgundy recently, as he saw an unrefrigerated truck hauling away wine bound for America via Dijon, a four-hour drive. Even if it joins a refrigerated container for trans-Atlantic travel, Galloni wrote on eBob, saying, “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that 4 hours in a truck at 100 degree temps means those wines will probably be cooked before they ever have a chance to oxidize, prematurely or not.”

Fortunately, most conscientious importers do ship in refrigerated containers today. But some warehouses in the US and/or delivery trucks Read more…

New legislative bill threatens the diversity of New York’s wine market

Last week in the NYT, Eric Asimov highlighted the wine program at Nice Matin, a restaurant on the Upper West Side that has remarkable breadth of offerings, depth of vintages and sharp pricing. This apparent wine lover’s idyll was not always this way: only in the past few years have the owners built up the wine program, in part by purchasing the cellars of now-defunct restaurants. Further, the wine director “prowls through a network of collectors and winery owners, seeking mature older vintages to add to the list.”

Across town and upstate, specialty wine shops such as Chambers Street Wines and Crush Wine and Spirits or Grapes the Wine Company, often broker collections of rare older wines that individual collectors are selling. And even though wine auctions have shifted to Hong Kong with astonishing speed over the past couple of years, the gavel still does come down on wine lots at places like Sotheby’s and Christie’s here in New York.

All of these facets of the wine business mean that, with a bit of effort, a wine enthusiast can hunt down an enormous range of rare bottles in New York. It is arguably the best city on earth for wine lovers.

But the status quo is under threat thanks to new proposed legislation in Albany. Read more…

Scan wine flash sale sites, at a glance

A surplus of wine in the past couple of years has led to closeouts, which, in turn, has led to the proliferation of daily deal wine sites. But there are now so many that it can be hard to keep up with them all. Thus the new site

Still in beta, the site aggregates offers from the leading “flash sale” sites. Beyond detailing the sales, the site also offers various “social” features, such as voting up the deals and discussion boards. Still embryonic, it could grow into something useful with more participants. But one thing that is useful now is that it provides a record of the wines offered a the various flash sale sites and usually those sites make it difficult to see what exactly they’re offering without clicking through.

Anyway, I like the idea since late one evening, probably after too much cru Beaujolais, I once thought about doing such a site myself! What do you think–obviously the site’s not much of a looker yet, but is this better than scanning 50 emails a day? Or is the flash sale world of wine sales so fast moving that such an aggregator site is not quick enough for you to score the deals you want?


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