Archive for the 'business of wine' Category

If the Euro melts down, would euro wine go up?

Although markets have rallied this week, the collapse of the euro is the topic du jour. Mike Steinberger talked with some players in European wine and found that none had a particular plan for handling a collapse. Fair enough: such a cataclysmic event would hold lots of uncertainty and dislocation. And we all know what happens to the best laid plans of mice and men…

But that doesn’t stop us from armchair speculation! If Greece, Portugal, Spain or even Italy were to withdraw from or be bounced from the euro and revert to their national currencies, the theory goes that they would suffer a devaluation but that the cheaper goods would be more attractive on the world market. Assyrtiko, feta cheese and beach vacations would all be on sale and this would help kick start the economy.

Although on a much smaller scale, the wine world does have a recent example of devaluation: Argentina. Read more…

Why importer Jose Pastor says “no, gracias” to Wine Advocate scores

This week, our “set of titanium corkscrews” award goes to Jose Pastor. The 30-year-old Bay Area resident has a difficult business life selling Americans on the virtues of wines from such little-known grapes as Listan Blanco, Baboso, or Mantonegro from the Canary Islands and Mallorca. And since 2009, he’s added another challenge: selling his wines without Wine Advocate scores.

Citing fatigue of “living by the rule of the trade,” he told me at the recent tasting of his wines in New York that he has not journeyed to Maryland to present his portfolio to the Wine Advocate for two years. It’s also a philosophical difference over scoring.

“Wine is an agricultural thing,” he said. “You can’t score a tomato.”

He added that spending 30 or 40 seconds tasting a wine failed to capture everything about it. “You have to have a respect for the work that has been done. That’s hard to do without being there, meeting the people and seeing the land.”

So how does he sell his wine? He says that good retailers care how the wine got to the glass, not just whats in it, he says. He works with retailers such as Chambers Street Wines in NYC and Terroir in SF as well as restaurants.

“Things are really changing. People in the trade want to know more first-hand, to visit, to learn, to taste. And consumers too.” He says that it’s easier to undersand wine talk when it is coming from a fellow consumer, who describes a wine with food–or even over food, sharing the wine together. Then there are no points, no “chocolate and vanilla” descriptors.

“Back in the day, there were only two or three guys with a voice. Now there are many. It’s great for wine!”

* * *

The diversity that he celebrates in wine appreciation is also evident in his wines that represent one of the most exciting Spanish portfolios available in the US today. Read more…

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…


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