Bubbly New Year

It has been a while, hasn’t it? Apologies for going AWOL, but 2014 was a busier year than expected. Job changes, a move, a few trips, you name it. Perhaps the biggest change in my life that relates to this blog is that I now work in the wine industry (insert cheer here)! I also took an unforgettable trip to Sicily, specifically the Etna region, where I had some of the greatest tastings of my life. I owe an entire post to this trip, and hope to update you more on that soon.

But 2015 is upon us, and that means wine resolutions. I’m attempting to keep things fun and simple this year. And let’s be honest, obtainable. I set my sights on Burgundy last year, and it was fun. But expensive. Reading about Burgundy proved to be far cheaper, and I’ve found some great tomes on the subject (perhaps another post?). So this year, let’s keep it fun. Here are my resolutions:

1. Blog more. Hey, it’s the elephant in this electronic room, right? I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been slacking.

2. Bubbles! That’s right. This will be the main focus for 2015. Not just Champagne. Sparkling wine from all over the world. What better was to keep 2015 fun than to be drinking bubbly all year long? I encourage you all to join me. Let’s make bubbly an everyday thing, not just for special occasions.

3. Hipster wines. I touched on this in the past, and it’s one I want to keep hammering away at. There are too many dark corners of the wine world that deserve more light. Let’s find some really great stuff and let the world know about it.

4. Wine and Coke. I’ve been meaning to attempt this for years. Rumor has it that the Chinese sometimes mix red wine with Coca Cola. Not true? Maybe, but where is the fun in that? Let’s try it. It’ll make for a good story.

So here’s to a new year, a fresh start, and lots of fun ahead. I hope you all will join me. Cheers.

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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.

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.

There’s a global wine shortage coming…or maybe not

Last week, The Atlantic reported that there is a forthcoming global wine shortage. They cited research by Morgan Stanley and had a nice little graph to boot. Even CNN picked it up. As you can imagine, the wine world sort of freaked.

But fear not! Just days later, reports emerged debunking the Morgan Stanley report. The SF Gate and Reuters both cranked out articles claiming just the opposite. The Reuters article that’s linked there explains a lot. Go on, click it. Click that link. If you don’t want to though, here are some telling paragraphs from it:

But if you look closely at the Morgan Stanley report, it starts to look less like a dispassionate analysis of supply and demand dynamics in the wine world, and more like an aggressively-argued attempt to put forward one particular investment thesis as strongly as possible. What’s more, the investment thesis is not, particularly, based on the existence of any present or future wine shortage; it’s simply trying to present the idea that demand for Australian wine exports is likely to rise, and to justify the fact that  a company called Treasury Wine Estates is the bank’s “top Australian consumer pick”. (The report was written by Morgan Stanley Australia.)

To create the first chart, Morgan Stanley just took the second chart, added 300 million cases to the red line, and then — this is pretty cunning — simply deleted 2013 altogether, so that the uptick at the end disappears. (The 300 million number is Morgan Stanley’s estimate of the annual demand for “non-wine uses” of wine.)

If you like charts though, check out that link. It’s pretty good. So it seems that, for now, we’re in the clear. Plenty of wine for all. Clearly I’m still laying down a few bottles either way though. And besides, there’s always whiskey.

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.

I am a Supertaster: paying taxes in Bittertown, USA

Indeed, I am a supertaster. Don’t be confused though, I am not a super taster – I’m not the Michael Jordan of tasting or something. No, I’m a supertaster. It’s a bad thing, mostly. To put it simply, a supertaster is one who has greater than average fungiform papillae on their tongue, and therefore a much lower tolerance to bitter tastes. Supertasters often find things like black coffee, green leafy vegetables, and hoppy beers unbearable. Women, Asians, Africans, and South Americans are more likely to be supertasters (so I’m big time in the minority here). Read all about it on Google, or check out Wikipedia’s info on it right here.

Yours truly finds all of these things bitter. I load up my coffee with cream and sugar. I wince when I drink a really strong IPA. This now explains why people have looked at me funny when I say I don’t like the taste of most vegetables.

So how does one find out for sure that they’re a super taster? I had read all sorts of home tests, like dropping blue food coloring on your tongue, and then counting the number of taste buds you see in a hole punch-sized area. Not very scientific. Finally I heard about a chemically treated paper test strip that proves it. It’s safe, it’s easy, it’s cheap…it’s available on Amazon. Clearly, I snapped these up (if anyone wants to try it, I might have 99 strips left). The “For use in medical genetics” was particularly enjoyable to read right before sticking a chemical in my mouth.

PTC test strips
PTC test strips

The day they were delivered, I dove right in. The test is incredibly easy. Take one strip, pop it in your mouth, get it wet with saliva, and wait to see if you taste anything. If you taste nothing at all, you’re a “nontaster” – one who tastes less than average. If you only notice a slight amount, I’m told, you’re normal. If it’s disgustingly bitter, well, guess what you are?

At first, I thought it just tasted like paper. Then the paper got wet and the chemical spread throughout my mouth. And onto my gums. And onto the inside of my cheeks. Welcome to Bittertown, USA. Ding ding ding! Supertaster. The good news is, for those of your worried about the taste, it took a few swishes of water to get rid of the taste.

For your blog reading entertainment, I was sure to have my phone ready for a mid-tasting experience reaction shot. I think you’ll enjoy the photo below. No need to thank me. Just go have a strong IPA for me, please. Now who needs 99 PTC test strips? Cheers.

Paying taxes in Bittertown, USA.
Paying taxes in Bittertown, USA.

$145 million swirly

Talk about pouring some out for your homies. Treasury Wine Estates, an Australian-based company, is now the all time champ. One of the largest wine companies in the world, Treasury recently announced they’re writing off $145 million in wine. Seems America got over the Australian wine fad a few years ago. Think about it – when was the last time you bought some Australian wine with a kangaroo on the bottle? You’ve moved on, right?

Flushing some? Yes. Probably writing it off their books more than anything? Oh yeah. I can’t imagine what sort of environmental impacts pouring that much wine down the drain would have. Although, that would be a pretty interesting little side story. Can they do that? Must it be filtered first? Interesting.

Anyway, let’s not cry too big of a river here. I’m 100% sure Treasury didn’t actually dump any decent wines. Good wines keep for years, and I’m sure they have some cellars they can line with cases for now. What we’re probably talking about here is the cheap stuff – non-age worthy white wines sold in jugs. And in terms of how Treasury stores it, probably in giant vats. I’m imagining this stuff being shipped around in giant railroad tanker cars. There’s another story I’d like to read. I bet it’s true.

Cheap or not though, holy cow what a river of wine.