Forget screwcaps versus corks: An English entrepreneur has sold this invention of single-serve plastic wine glasses–stem and all!–to Marks & Spencer, which now “struggles to keep up with demand.” He is laughing all the way to the bank since a business reality show in the UK called “Dragons’ Den” panned the idea when he presented it on the show. Sold under the brand “Le Froglet,” the individual 187ml glasses cost £2.25 ($3.33) for a Shiraz, Rose and Chardonnay, which, apparently, come from the Languedoc.
What say you: abomination or genius? Would this solve all your needs for wine in the back of a taxi? On a train home from work? At picnics? Your wine-through-a-straw needs?
“Wine-in-a-glass entrepreneur ridiculed in Dragons’ Den toasts M&S success” [Daily Mail; also image] Thanks, Jessica!
Last week’s New York Times reviewed some wines from Savennières, the Loire appellation that makes often-stunning, always dry versions of chenin blanc. The article noted the alcohol levels from the label of each wine alongside the newspaper’s ratings, comments and prices.
Would you like to see more reviewers noting alcohol levels? Although what’s written on the label is what we have to go on as consumers, it’s not always accurate given that federal regulations allow one to one-and-a-half percent wiggle room from what’s stated on the label. Have your say in the latest poll!
Also, just how did the NYT panel’s favorite wine, Nicolas Joly’s Les Clos Sacrés from the damp 2007 vintage, reach 15 percent alcohol? This is the Loire, not Lodi, after all. For perspective, I asked Nicolas Joly for a comment, which follows after the poll.
Stephane Tissot from the Jura outside Les Caves Augé in Paris.
Les Caves Augé, the excellent Paris wine shop, has fun, free wine tastings that spill on to the sidewalk. The shop is crammed with so many fine and fun wines that they mainly have to do these free tastings outside of the winter months, so the broad pavements of Boulevard Hausmann are at their most hospitable. For anyone traveling to Paris, there are three remaining Saturday tastings this season at Augé, “Wonder women” on June 5, “Loire” on June 19, and “bubbles” on July 10.
Although we’ve never met, Tim Eustis is a friend of a friend. He worked in wine retail in New York City and did wine consulting for seven years. About a year ago, he and his family moved to Paris. Back in March, he dropped by the first of the spring tastings. Over to Tim for photos and comments from his tasting some wines from the Jura and Alsace. I have liked some wines from Tissot (old vine Poulsard) and Binner (notably, the gewurztraminer) in the past so was pleased Tim had the chance to taste them.
By Timothy Eustis Read more…
Paradoxically, however, producers who dare to do something different are all-too-often ending up in this undifferentiated tier. (I detail more of the shortcomings of the appellation process in my book, Wine Politics.) Although quality producers in Italy make wine outside of the DOC system, the French have clung with surprisingly fervor to the AOC system as relatively few have left, in large part fearing the stigma of vin de table.
Chateau Palmer, the “super second” classified growth from Margaux, does not appear to fit the profile of one to buck the system. But that’s what they’ve done with their “XIXth Century historical wine.” Apparently, blending syrah from the Northern Rhone with Bordeaux was fairly common in the pre-appellation controllée era, particularly in weaker vintages, to result in a wine that had been “Hermitagé,” so-called after the celebrated region that produces fine syrah.
To make the Historical wine, winemaker Thomas Duroux blends barrels that were otherwise destined for Chateau Palmer with no more than twenty percent syrah from “friendly” (but unspecified) sources in Hermitage, Cote Rotie, and Cornas. Although it has been produced only in 2004, 2006, and 2007, the label legally can’t state a vintage as a vin de table, so instead they rely on the microscopic font of the lot number, 20.06 in the one I tasted last week. The wine is nothing like shiraz, cabernet, merlot blends of Australia, but it’s not really very Margaux either since it is fuller and richer and showing more of the syrah character now. Of the 250 – 300 cases made, the chateau is holding back 50 cases for a minimum ten years to see if the wine changes back to show more of the Margaux character. Priced the same as Chateau Palmer ex-cellars, this isn’t your typical vin de table.
While Merlot’s fall from grace can be traced to one line in the movie Sideways, the fall of Syrah has been more difficult to track. Australian wine, with Shiraz as the signature grape, has experienced a decline in sales over the past couple of years. Even more broadly, it’s still a tough sell: producers and retailers have repeatedly told me that save for a few appellations in the Northern Rhone, the homeland of the grape, Syrah remains a sluggish category.
I was happy to have the chance to check in with Syrah by organizing a small tasting at a private residence last week. In putting together the seven wines in the lineup, I wanted to be sure to include examples from Australia, the US and the Northern Rhone but had the usual constraint that the wines actually had to be available locally. I decided to spare the tasters the hot-climate, jammy style and the boring cheapie style since they were probably most familiar with those, especially the latter, which is poured with abandon at fundraisers and art gallery openings. Read more…
I recently bought the 2007 Lafarge Bourgogne rouge ($30; find this wine) and popped it open on a Friday evening for Mrs. Vino. With the delicious pinot noir in our glasses, light in color with excellent balance between acid and youthful tannin, the weekend was off to a great start. Then our neighbor dropped by to collect his son and, in no time flat, the bottle was empty. Our sipping wine got gulped! Good thing that fun wines are for sharing.
When I was speaking with Becky Wasserman recently, the Burgundy-based exporter of this and many other wines, she suggested to get to know a Burgundy producer by their Bourgogne rouge, a sort of house calling card for a relatively low entry point. In the case of Domaine Michel Lafarge, I’ve also had the chance to try the recent vintages of his Volnay; the 2006 has great snap and the 2007 has fine balance. So, good advice.
A previous evening Mrs. Vino and I enjoyed the Lafarge Bourgogne Passetoutgrain 2007, “L’Exception” ($24; find this wine). Passetoutgrain is the rare red Burgundy that allows grapes other than pinot noir in the wine since it is a blend that includes gamay. In this case, the grapes are interspersed in in the same vineyard (a field blend, as it is known) of fifty-five year old vines. They are harvested and fermented together. The resulting wine combines the gulpability of gamay with the structure of pinot. While I preferred the Bourgogne rouge, this is still a fun wine–as such, this switch-hitter is good for a relaxed evening of sipping but still a good choice in case any gulping neighbors drop by.
A French court found 12 executives guilty of selling the equivalent of 18 million bottles of cheaper wine as pinot noir. The buyer was California’s E&J Gallo for their Red Bicyclette brand, which sells for about $9 a bottle.
AFP reports that generic red wines fetched 45 euros (about $62) per one hundred liters while the premium pinot noir fetched 97 euros. One of the firms involved had been paying 58 euros for the wines it sold to Gallo. The accused made seven million euros ($9.5 million) in the scheme.
The defendants, from two firms, received suspended jail sentences and fines between 3,000 and 45,000 euros. Reuters reports that one firm, Sieur D’Arques, had to pay a fine of 180,000 euros.
Gallo issued a statement saying that they were “deeply disappointed” to learn of the fraud at one of their suppliers. The statement continued: “We believe that the only French Pinot Noir that was potentially misrepresented to us would have been the 2006 vintage and prior.” They also added that there was no health risk and that they would be withdrawing the wine from the market.
On the Red Bicyclette website, they tout the pinot noir as “world acclaimed” and point out that the 2006 vintage received a score of 83 points from Wine Spectator and the 2005 received various medals at wine competitions, including a bronze San Francisco International Wine Competition and a silver at both the Taster’s Guild International Wine Competition and Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.
“If Americans lose confidence in French wine production, particularly the Languedoc region, which is already going through a serious crisis, the consequences could be terrible,” Francis Battut, the prosecutor, told AFP.
A lawyer for one defendant told AFP “Not a single American consumer complained.” Another defense lawyer said that the wine had delivered “Pinot Noir characteristics.” On Marketplace Morning Report this morning, a commentator said that consumers don’t even know what pinot noir tastes like.
But it hardly seems like consumers’ fault. Does $9 pinot really taste like pinot noir? It’s worth noting that federal regulations allow blending of up to 25 percent other varieties into a wine labeled by its grape variety.
What does this faux pinot ruling mean for you? What with counterfeits on the high end and Brunello blending, rule-breaking and fraud seem to be making the rounds in the wine world.
SIPPED: upgrading label info?
No disgorgement date, no review: Antonio Galloni, who reviews Champagnes for The Wine Advocate, announced in issue 186 that if nonvintage Champagne doesn’t come with a disgorgement date, then it will not be reviewed. (Discussion ensued over at wineberserkers whether there was a loophole in the statement.) With this information, consumers can have a better handle on the freshness of such wines.
SPIT: bling champagne
The economic downturn has started a bull market in columns about the bear market in Champagne! Alice Feiring got a jump on the competition with her WSJ. magazine piece from September (“Bubbles takes a bath”), a WSJ Europe reporter followed up with another piece this month (“All That Fizzes Is Gold“), and the wine columnists at the NYT and the more spendy Slate.com join the fray with recommendations, with nonvintage bargains under $40 and overall bargains under $100 respectively.
Ray Isle of F&W escapes the holiday madness of midtown at the Garden Wine Bar at the Four Seasons hotel. There he finds solitude and some more-intriguing-than-usual hotel bar selections. [Tasting Room]
SPIT: business as usual
Eric Asimov serves up a meaty post on the shuffling of the Bordeaux wine trade. [The Pour]
Driven by sales of red Bordeaux, which country saw a fifteen-fold increase in imports from France during 2002 – 2008? Okay, it’s China. But you’ll need to click through for the importer stock pick in the story! [WSJ]