Category Archives: General Digression

Coloring Outside the Lines: Why Winemaker’s Shouldn’t Color to Relax

Adult coloring books seem to be a strong trend lately.  For my birthday this year, I found four of them on my desk complete with colored pencils and crayons from an anonymous co-worker.  I took the hint and tried it out.  Below was my first attempt.

What began as an innocent coloring project immediately struck a nerve with my somewhat OCD tendencies.  Why I started with a blue flower, I have no idea, but ultimately it ended up stressing me out completely as I tried to balance the colors to not have any one color be dominant.  It also doesn’t seem to have any cohesive pattern so finding the patterns within the patterns while it was still black and white really didn’t become apparent until I was almost finished with the entire page.  Then there was the pattern underneath the pattern which looked a little bit to me like satin quilting so I tried to get artistic with shadowing and shading and it just ended up looking a bit demonic rather than the plush satin texture that I was intending. The result which is a strange chaotic mess, in my eyes, is why as a winemaker I always have a plan to start.  I always envision what the wine should look like at the end so that every step along the way has a purpose and a direction.  This picture continues to stress me out just looking at it now but even as stressed as I was, I was driven to finish it.  To see if, after everything started out strange and wrong, I could pull it back to something interesting.  There are many times I’ve had to do the same thing as a winemaker and it is no where near as relaxing as an easy ferment but the sense of accomplishment at the end is a good feeling.

The next one I planed out.  It was a page full of leaves in black and white.  Not wanting to do an entire page of green, I devised a story behind it to be right at the end of summer when it turns to fall and that first leaf starts to turn yellow and orange.  I picked the changing leaf and then worked on coloring in the balance of them with two shades of green in various shading patterns depending on leaf overlap.  The result, unfortunately pictured sideways here since it was colored in landscape, was a relaxing study of leaves which had a clear plan.  So note to self, if I don’t have a plan ahead of time, don’t start the drawing.  The chaos of the non-plan will cancel out any relaxing benefits of the physical act of coloring.

Finding Time to Write

Now that I’m back in the MW program,quotes on writing:quotes on writing pick up a pen and write I remember why I always had such a hard time getting weekly posts up. It’s so hard to find time to write. I only have so much time set aside during the week and with two assignments due last week it was maxed out.

I want to find time to write, however life seems to happen so quickly and there are so many things that need to be written. Blog posts, MW assignments, tasting notes, harvest notes, and the book I’ve been meaning to start on. There are so many hours in the day and outside of getting up at 5am to write (which I will probably need to start doing soon) I don’t have many options with a 3 year old at home.

Writing is Rewarding

Anyway, I write today, not to complain about my lack of time for writing but to share with you all the fun opportunities that I have to do so. Writing this blog is one of the most rewarding things. I am so excited when someone says they read it. It makes all the time and effort worth it that others care what I have to say; something that constantly amazes me. I am also thrilled at being able to write MW assignments again. Crazy? Probably. I’m accepting that and moving on in my nutzo state. There are three years of MW exam theory questions I haven’t written yet so I need to get on those so I can say I’ve written the last 15 years of exam questions instead of only the years of 2001-2012.  Now where is my fishbowl???

I keep meaning to write up the vintage notes for 2015 because by the time you need them for tasting notes you’ve generally forgotten what happened during the vintage. I have little post it notes around the house from weather events and harvest dates for each of the wines I made this year that stare at me accusingly for not sitting down and writing them up.  Then there is my book idea.  I’m not even sure it is a fully formed idea yet but my thought was to sit down and start writing and see what it turns into.  My best ideas generally start this way but I need time to see how it will go.  This is last on my priority list right now with at least 500 other things in front of it daily.

“If you have other things in your life—family, friends, good productive day work—these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer.”
– David Brin

So back onto the crazy train I go with the MW work.  My day job is challenging and rewarding.  My family life is good but exhausting as it should be.  I have lots of great subject matter to write about.  Now if only I can find the time…



But Why is the Wine Gone? – Part II: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Philip Gregan says a bumper harvest could lead to a glut of wine. Photo / Richard RobinsonSeveral weeks ago I covered the potential shortage of Prosecco in But Why is the Wine Gone Part I.  This week I wanted to uncover another potential shortage on the other side of the wine world. This shortage was publicized also by the Drinks Business back in June and I quickly caught up with Phillip Gregan, Chief Executive Officer of the New Zealand Winegrowers association (NZWG).  After the overstated shortage of Prosecco, I wanted to find out what was driving this rumored shortage and how impactful it would be on the supply of New Zealand’s signature Sauvignon Blanc.

“Volume is Much Smaller than in 2014”

Apparently this one is real.  It is mainly caused by a perfect storm of market phenomena: short supply and high demand.  According to Gregan “demand has been rising for 25 years and the 2015 vintage was much smaller than 2014.”  Their demand numbers are based on export volume which is growing at about 7% per year in a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) and export value growing at 6% per year CAGR .

It is possible that demand will eventually outpace the available land in New Zealand. There have already been rumblings that Marlborough is almost planted out on all available land.  One wonders if the NZWG could capitalize on other regions which could grow Sauv Blanc that are less well known around the world outside of Marlborough.  Gregan stated “Yes! Without a doubt, but those other regions have yet to build the reputation that Marlborough has [and] that takes time of course.” Some of these include Nelson, Waipara, Martinborough, Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay.

The Swinging Pendulum

Of course many in the industry know that oversupply and undersupply is a constantly swinging pendulum and can change in the span of one vintage to another.  Even as recent as mid-2014 there were concerns of oversupply in New Zealand after two large crops of 2013 and 2014.  There was an oversupply and dropping grape and land prices back in 2008.  Even though there is a shortage now, I wanted to know if the NZWG were doing anything to mitigate an oversupply risk for the future.  Philisophically, Gregan points out “There will always be a year to year risk around over-supply/shortage that is the nature of an agriculturally based industry.  What [the NZWG] do is provide as much information to the industry as possible about supply, demand, prices etc to enable wineries and growers to plan for the future.”

“North America will be the major driver of growth over the next five years.”

Speaking of the future, there is always a concern about will demand continue at the current pace and where the NZWG feel their market is moving.  What markets are their focus right now?  “North America will be the major driver of growth over the next five years. Beyond that we expect China to be increasingly important. They are both very big markets in which current NZ wine penetration is relatively low, so there is a lot of upside” states Gregan.

Phillip Gregan Photo / Richard Robinson

New Zealand Landscape photo from Saint Clair Family Estate Wines