Bordeaux in trouble

Bordeaux has been a funny financial beast the past decade. With wealthy buyers around the world increasing (looking at you, China), the price per bottle bottle of Bordeaux went through the roof in the ought’s. Even throughout The Great Recession, people called for the bubble to burst, but it seemingly continued to grow. But perhaps it’s not a burst we’ve been waiting for. Maybe it’s more of a slow leak.

CNBC published an article this week stating that Bordeaux market “…is down a full 33 percent from its peak.” It seems the focus has shifted from Bordeaux to Burgundy. I don’t’ hear any young people talking about buying Bordeaux. It’s all about finding new, interesting, off the beaten path bottles. I have no doubt attention will return to Bordeaux in the future, but the market is clearly tired of these wines and their prices. When they come back down to earth, maybe Bordeaux will be a nouveau-hipster wine. A real retro purchase in five to ten years.

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Burgundy for 2014

photo

In the past, I’ve made a handful of wine resolutions for the new year. I keep some of them, I fail at others, but it’s always fun. Still being January, it’s not too late to make one for 2014. I typically go for heavier bodied red wines, preferably Old World in style, without too much extraction (Bordeaux, Brunellos, certain California Cabs that aren’t overdone, etc.). I love them, but it’s time I expanded my horizons again.

This year, I’m keeping it simple: drink more Burgundy. Subhead of said resolution: “How quickly can Austin go broke?” Burgundy ain’t cheap, but there are great bottles to be found without (hopefully) breaking the bank.

So why Burgundy? Why not pinot noir in general? I’ve found that I have typically shied away from pinot noir in the past because I haven’t liked the overtly fruity characteristics of the wine. Over time though, I’ve realized a lot of this stems from pinots made in warmer climates, like California. I like the more subtle, earthy, minerality that I notice in Burgundy pinot noirs.

That said, I’m keeping an open mind. My focus is on Burgundy, but I’ll be trying as many pinot noirs as I can this year. If they’re anything like the one in the photo above, this is going to be a great year. Santé, 2014.

Rhymes with orange wine

White wine, red wine, rosé wine…orange wine? My eyebrows raised. A lot. If you haven’t heard of it either, don’t feel bad. Part novelty, part legitimately tasty, orange wine is hot and new.

So what is Orange Wine? In short, it’s white wine made in a specific manner by wineries in NY state. The white wine that you and I have come to know takes white grapes, crushes/presses them, and instantly drains the juice away from the pulp, seeds, etc. Orange wine keeps the juices on the grapes while it ferments, allowing it to pick up far different flavors and complexities. Or so they say.

Winemag.com describes it thusly: “Rather than being orange, these skin-fermented white wines range from bright gold to tawny brown. On the palate, they often possess the texture, body and tannins of red wines and the fruit and minerality of white wines. Stylistically unique, many offer earthiness, funk and a savory, richly textured mouthfeel.

For some more information on it, check out imbibemagazine.com’s article on orange wine right here. It doesn’t look like these wines are cheap, but I’d like to go through a tasting of a few. Finding them may be the most difficult task, unless you live in New York state, right at the source.

 

In Italy, times they are a’changing

Newsweek (now online only, weird!) posted an article this week reporting Italy’s changing wine tastes, and I found it fascinating.  The title, Vino? No thanks. We’re Italian. pretty much says it all. Seems Italian youth are choosing drinks other thank wine.

The craft beer and mixologist cocktail-culture, along with a really rough economy has hit the wine industry hard. Fortunately, countries like the USA are keeping the industry going, but it seems really odd to think of Italy as anything but a wine-drinking society. Wine times, they are a-changing. Check out that article. Good info, and some good charts for you. Cheers.

Insane vineyard prices

What would you pay for an acre of vineyard land? Ten, twenty, thirty grand? Don’t forget you’ll have to buy and plant the vines, trellis systems, etc. etc. It adds up. How about $200,000 per acre? $1 million? If you’ve got the cash, you can find the land for that.

Dr. Vino (a good blog and Twitter account, if you’re interested) posted an interesting article today on vineyard prices and economics, specifically related to Burgundy vineyards. There’s a good (short) video to watch too. As Dr. Vino quoted from the video:

It’s a way to preserve capital…You’re buying Treasury bonds today at 2%. What would you rather buy, US treasury bonds or a piece of grand cru in Burgundy where you’re getting 1%–and the dividend is bottles of wine! So it’s not a bad deal!

Pretty interesting to think of vineyard acreage strictly as investment material. Maybe one day.

Chinese slowdown

You may recall a handful of posts I wrote in years’ past about the huge rise in Chinese wine buying. Around 2008, the Chinese government cut tariffs on wine imports by 80%, so you can imagine how things took off. But now it seems the Chinese government is putting some brakes back on. Wine-searcher.com reported recently about new austerity measures that have been imposed after “…estimates for spending on banquets and entertainment were made public by researchers in early 2012, the figure was put at $50 billion to $145 billion per year.” Big time money, and not a lot of austerity there, huh?

In 2013, these measures (I’m not quite sure what the measures entail) took effect. Feel free to read the linked article above to the details, but here are the key figures they’ve seen so far:

  • “…more than 50 percent of China’s medium- to large-sized companies have slashed their corporate spending.”
  • The same vintage of Chateau Lafite was trading at $1,930/btl now trading at $970
  • Average price per bottle of local spirits baijiu dropped to $164 down from $323
  • 60% to 80% of all Chateau Lafite bottles in China is now counterfeit.

I can’t say I’m shocked by the drop. The good times can’t always roll that hard. Given the philosophy of the government, it seems like there will be a bit of a roller coaster for the foreseeable future, albeit hopefully with slightly less steep drops.

Natural Wine

The idea of natural wines is a tricky subject. Mainly because the term really doesn’t mean anything specific. In general though, it means a wine that’s been as un-touched by a winemaker’s technology and techniques as possible. So what’s that mean? Things like chemicals in the vineyard (e.g. pesticides, or chemicals that keep the grapes from rotting or molding), or sulphur in the winemaking process. Sulphur sounds bad, but really it’s totally fine. It’s typically used very sparingly, and it keeps the wine from spoiling, so it’s essential.

So now we get the push for “natural” wines, which certainly comes from a good place and is something that I generally agree with. But in reality, there is NO way to know what is “natural” and what isn’t, or where in the spectrum of “natural” a wine may fall. It ends up being a little silly to my mind. The easiest way is to get to know a winery that you like a lot, and learn the winemaker’s philosophy. Easier said than done, yes. Your best bet is to find a great wineshop and talk to the folks who work there. They’ve often visited the places themselves.

If you want to learn more, and you’re an extreme wine nerd, check out this blog post that I came across. It’s a long read, but it’s interesting if this type of thing gets you going. I don’t know the blog well, but it looks like a smartly written piece so it may be worth checking out more.