Drones over the vineyards

drone vineyard

Bernard Magrez, owner of 40 chateaus/wineries around the world, has floated a first for Bordeaux: unmanned drone surveillance.

Vitisphere reports that he has purchased a €50,000 octocopter with a camera to surveil his own vines at the rate of 25 acres an hour. That compares with a rate of about ten for a team of eight humans. Maybe the drone will spy on workers to see if zey are ze nap in ze vineyards??

The drone has a range of eight miles and can go 8,000 feet high. No word if it can also deliver Amazon orders. But it will probably contribute to promotional videos for the estates.

The top wine at Sotheby’s in 2013

lafite vertical Domaine de la Romanée Conti topped the charts at Sotheby’s last year. The auction house (and wine retailer) sold $57.9 million of wine in 2013 and DRC accounted for $7.2 million of that. Almost three quarters of the DRC was sold in Hong Kong. Lafite was second at $5.2 million and Pétrus and Haut Brion tied for third with $4.6 million of each falling under the hammer.

Asked at a press conference at Sotheby’s in New York City yesterday if DRC would continue as the top wine for 2014, Jamie Ritchie pointed to the tiny production of the wine, lots of demand and the that fact that people do actually drink it, uncorking it everyday somewhere (I want to meet these people). Ritchie is the President and CEO of Sotheby’s Wine Americas and Asia.

The house doubled sales between 2009 and 2010 as sales jumped from $41.8 million to $88 million. They have declined since that high-water mark as mainland China’s thirst for wine has slowed. Even with that slowdown, several observers at the event concurred that when traveling in China’s wine circles today, there are opportunities to drink abundant amounts of fine wine every evening. Asian buyers purchased 62% of wine at their auctions around the globe.

Even if the data are, in part, driven by what they procured (e.g. their large Opus One sale), it’s good to see Sotheby’s opening up their sales data. I wish other auction houses would do the same. Charts and other stats follow after the jump. Read more…

No, NYC doesn’t have too many wine shops

nyc wine store

Crain’s New York ran a piece over the weekend pointing to a 14% rise in wine shops in NYC since 2010. Will the proliferation of shops “bottle up profit” they wondered?

The short answer is: no.

There’s a huge thirst for wine in America right now and especially in New York City. The city has some terrific shops and, throwing in the knowledge and offerings at the city’s restaurants and wine bars, it is today the best wine destination on the planet (here’s looking at you, Paris). Sure, the existing 1,368 wine shops can serve the city’s residents and tourists. But a growing market that’s relatively protected (grocery stores can’t sell wine) will probably mean more stores in the coming years.

Today, there are discounters and full-service shops. There are ones focusing in small estate wines and others with lots of well-known brands. There are shops with particular slants such as selling wines made by women, wines from California or Chile, wines from a single importer, shops that sell wine by occasion or food pairing rather than region, or shops that have tastings every day of the week.

Not all of them will succeed. But the more the merrier. While some of the unsuccessful approaches may be reoriented in another four years, I’d venture to say that, barring economic collapse or a shift to allow chains or wine in grocery stores, the number of wine shops will be higher still, by a similar measure as over the last four years.

One thing that could improve the finances of these small shops (chains are not allowed in NY), is if they could also sell craft beer. That happens in Connecticut and levels of social unrest are not higher as a result. In places like Illinois or New Jersey, wine shops can even sell gourmet comestibles, such as cheese. Imagine!

Map of my favorite NYC wine shops

Sommeliers can be “surprisingly” highly paid

Bloomberg TV has a quick hit on five “surprisingly high-paying jobs.” Number five on their list is a “master sommelier,” who, they say, citing nobody in particular, can earn “up to $125,000 a year.”

But keep putting the nose to the limestone, somms: the piece says phone sex operators can earn $160k.

Yes, I saw the shoe video

So the latest “uncorking a wine bottle with a shoe” video is making the rounds on Facebook. I know because tons of people who aren’t that into wine has sent it to me. Apparently, I’m not alone as it topped 100,000 views in just a couple of days. Now in its sixth day on Youtube, it has 850,000 views. And media outlets such has the Telegraph, Daily Mirror, and Today.com are still writing about it.

In brief, Chateau Mirabeau in Provence put together a nicely done, 50-second clip (above) showing how to open a bottle of wine with a shoe in lieu of a corkscrew. Intrigued about this method a few years ago, I tried it myself–and found it to be a Croc. Nonetheless, I compiled the ne plus ultra posting about “opening wine with a shoe” videos. Consider it something to send back to your friends who have shown an interest in the subject. icon wink

Someone asked if this method will aerate the wine. I’m not sure about that. But it will doubtlessly give the wine a lot of sole.

Napa Valley’s next generation of deer hunters, Porsche racers

skeleton robots wine The SF Chronicle has a piece on the next generation of Napa Valley vintners. Here’s a snippet of what they’re up to:

Young, ambitious and eco-friendly, with hobbies like deer hunting and Porsche racing, the next generation of California’s wine heirs is coming of age…

Ah, yes, eco-friendly Porsche racing! Funny, with this lot, you think they’d be Scions. Anyway, there’s more:

[Loren] Trefethen had been watching TED talks and attending Summit Series events, invite-only weekend escapes at a private ski resort, and he decided to host his own event series. The Trefethen Table, as he calls it, is a dinner series curated by Trefethen and Hebb. Guests – like Gary Friedman, the CEO of Restoration Hardware, and Ido Leffler, the founder of SayYes – sit around an enormous tabletop and discuss previously arranged topics, like the art of conversation, the ocean, health and “the paradox of density.”

And now he wants to make a reality TV show out of these talks.

Janet Viader: “We get together once a month, and there’s some laughing and joking. Every now and then it’s a bitch-fest about working with family.”

“Alex Kongsgaard works for his family’s winery and on the side makes a line of wines he calls Skeletons vs. Robots (an Albarino and a Zinfandel). He draws the labels himself with a Sharpie.”

“Will Harlan came home to Napa after trying his hand at a price comparison startup. In October, he debuted Mascot, a cheaper version of his family’s high-end wine (Harlan wines can go for $750 to wine club members; the Mascot costs $75).”

So much win! Check out the full article for an inside look at this rare breed.

France to organic wine grower: spray or pay

flavescence doree Should a grape grower who practices organic viticulture be forced to spray pesticide? In the face of a bacterial malady hitting vineyards in France, the Ministry of Agriculture has decided the answer is yes.

And the New York Times editorial page is on it. Well, on it four days ago when I was under a snow bank.

INRA, the French state research institute for agriculture, has a very good page (en anglais) on the “highly contagious” and “incurable” bacterial disease called flavescence dorée (aka FD or yellowing disease). Transmitted by the leafhopper (Scaphoideus titanus), it has been affecting vines in France (and elsewhere) since the 1950s. The leaves yellow, the grapes shrivel, and the crop for that plant is lost. Forever. It can be difficult to detect, hence the directive that requires the spraying of Pyrevert, a pyrethrin pesticide.

Emmanuel Giboulot, an organic grower in Burgundy’s Cote d’Or, is facing a 30,000 euro fine and six months in jail if he doesn’t spray his vines that so far haven’t shown any signs of FD. A Facebook support page for Giboulot popped up appeared and now has almost 35,000 likes.

The Times argues that “The law requiring such use in Burgundy is not only bad policy, it is terrible publicity for French wine.” While the policy question is a tough one, there’s no denying that it is horrible PR for French wine. Certainly other countries have FD and may mandate spraying as well but they have not been put under the spotlight. Probably because their authorities haven’t threatened to lock up the dissenters.

Baby needs beers & wines

baby needs wine

While this photo isn’t worth a thousand words, it might be worth a chuckle. Consider it for all the punctuation hounds out there.


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