Category Archives: Musings

Vignettes: Random Thoughts that Need to Be Explored

I check most of the major wine websites on a daily basis.  Wine Business , Decanter, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and The Drinks Business.  Many times I read something in these checks that spark my interest or brings up a question in my mind that I want to explore.  Sometimes I will be reading something that has nothing to do with wine and I think of parallels in the wine industry that would be fun to explore.  Below are several of these snapshots into my daily mental wanderings that I would love to explore further and may expand into entire blog posts.  I’m giving you a chance to weigh in to see what would be most interesting.

Does Champagne Need to Regain its Number 1 Position on the Global Market? Did it really lose it in the first place?

This thought was inspired by two separate articles that were both published within a few days of each other.  This post on Wine Business asking “Can Champagne Regain #1 Market Postion as the Most Consumed Sparkling Wine?” This totally sounded like an MW Contemporary Issues question that it got me thinking about the counter question “Should Champagne be worried that they are not the most consumed?” Then this post from the Wall Street Journal “Has Champagne Lost Its Pop?” Both of these could be MW exam questions.  I am going to write them up that way but the general premise which I am going to explore is does a drop in volume suddenly equate to a drop in status or prestige.  I would assume the opposite but I need to explore it further.

If Prohibition Had Been Repealed Today, Would the Laws Have Been Written the Same Way?

I read about the AirBnB Win in San Francisco from the LA Times in this post last week and was struck by one section that was a quote from a lawyer who worked for the measure opposition.

” Daniel Rockey, an attorney who represents other sharing economy companies, maintains the penalties in Proposition F would have violated a federal law that protects Internet firms. And the Internet Assn., which advocates for companies such as Airbnb and Facebook, said it would be unreasonable to require companies to keep up with a patchwork of regulations that could come from a proliferation of local laws affecting the short-term rental industry. “It would set up the company to fail — and expose them to significant legal liability,” said Robert Callahan, California executive director of the group.”

I had to sit and think about that one for a while.  There hidden in this article was  a statement saying how ridiculous allowing an entire industry to be driven by local laws is and pointing out that it is unreasonable to require companies to keep up with them.  Um, Yes. It is.  I’ll leave that right there.

Champagne Helps Boost Memory

Oh my goodness! Where do I start with the questions about this article.  

• Are we talking Champagne or are we talking about any wine with bubbles? Well, the authors are British so I will assume the former. 

• Does the effect come from the traditional secondary fermentation process? If so, one could assume that any traditional method sparkling wine would have the same effects. If not, are the memory boosting properties an aspect of the growing conditions, varieties, and soils? If that’s the case, then why wouldn’t Chablis have the same properties?

• If it is the secondary fermentation that is the key, then would tank method have the same properties? If not then is it the time on lees that counts?

• If it’s is the time on lees, then one could assume, again, that any traditional method sparkling would work the same. Depending on the type of lees contact, would heavily stirred white wines have the same effects or does it need to be years? 

• If it is lees breaking down over years, then one could assume there is a compound within yeast cells which is liberated during the process and should be able to be isolated into a memory boosting supplement. 

Clearly the only way for me to dive into this is to find the published study. Only then I will be able to start narrowing down the answers. 

Now it is up to you. Which would you be interested in seeing developed?




Getting Ready for the Wine Blogger Conference 2015

At the end of this week is the biggest yearly event in wine bloggingdom (Yes, I did just make that word up!); The Wine Blogger Conference 2015.  By the end of the week, Wine Bloggers from around the world will have descended on Corning, NY located in the Southern Tier of the state!  It is hosted by the Finger Lakes which are to the north about 45 minutes to an hour.  I have only previously attended this event once, back in 2011 in Charlottesville, VA.  At that point, I was still in CA, had only been blogging a year or so, and came as a representative of a wine brand I was making at the time called Emma Pearl, complete with PR rep.

This year, I am going as a blogger only.  I am not representing a brand and while I am and will always be a winemaker, this is the first event where I’m not attending solely for that purpose.  I’m looking forward to the conference content.  I will definitely be attending the opening night reception on Thursday and the Key note speech by Karen MacNeil. After lunch it will be a toss up between the Banfi sponsored Fizziology 101 or the Ribera del Duero and Rueda session.  Spain is the front runner at this point!  The break out sessions on Saturday morning are going to be a game day decision but many look good.  Particularly the photo and video on smart phone session, since I do all of my website photography on my iPhone and need to do a video for China (I’ll get to that a bit later).

For the wine discovery sessions that afternoon, the dry wines of Alsace tasting looks exciting.   I don’t remember the conference before having such a great representation of international wines to taste!  It’s very exciting.  The live wine blogging should be interesting since I’ve only ever been on the presentation side of the table.  It’s a bit like speed dating with wine tasting.  When I presented the Emma Pearl wines back in 2011, I found myself talked extremely fast and hoping that I was making some sense to the tables to which I was presenting.  This year I’m going to be one of the ones sitting at the tables trying to listen to the winemakers and winery representatives telling their stories. We then will all be wandering over to the Corning museum of glass for a live glass demonstration and the awards banquet for the best bloggers of the year! Congrats to all who have won awards.  This is a tough media we are in and it is challenging to come up with quality posts frequently.  Those who have won awards represent the best of the best for the previous year.  After the presentations, we will head off to the various after parties of course! We’ll see how late I stay up!

The last morning there are two slightly ambiguous sessions; The secret to blogging success and the secret to writing success.  After 5 years of blogging, I’m not really sure what I would call blogging success.  I’m just enjoying having a weekly medium of interaction with those who are interested in interacting with me!  I’d love more on post comments though!  Feel free to share your thoughts.  Anyway, I’ll see everyone later this week!!!

Finally, on a completely different topic, I found out this week that I have been selected to be a part of the Ningxia Winemaker Challenge in Ningxia, China.  Sixty Winemakers from around the globe have been selected to participate.  At this point, I am one of five from the US (All 60 have yet to be announced publicly).  Starting in September of this year, I will be in China working on a single red wine which will be judged in 2017.  The great thing about this challenge is that I don’t have to relocate to China to accomplish it but will be traveling there several times a year to oversee the wine making and blending. I’ve always wanted to work an international harvest and this gives me the opportunity to do that as well as learn more about the Chinese culture.  I also get to work on my language skills while I’m there.   I’m so grateful that my family and Constellation are allowing me to take this opportunity.  We’ll see what I can come up with!  Wish me luck!

Bottle + glass

But Why is the Wine Gone? Part 1 – Prosecco

Several weeks ago there was an article by the Drinks Business proclaiming that a Prosecco shortage was nigh.  This sparked off a number of news outlets to cover the story.  Given that Prosecco is one of the hottest drinks on the market right now this was grave news indeed.  The UK’s Guardian, The Drinks Business as well as the Telegraph put the increase of sales of Prosecco anywhere between 39% and 74%.  For the US, the Italian bubbly is enjoying a meteoric rise as well with The Wall Street Journal quoting 39% and 75% for Shanken News Daily.

Then, shortly after the publication of the article I received a PR release in my inbox directly from the Prosecco DOC Consortium stating the following…

“The Prosecco DOC Consortium (Consorzio di Tutela della DOC Prosecco)—the institution charged with protecting, upholding and promoting the standards of Prosecco DOC— announced that there will not be a shortage of Prosecco in the coming months. The news that was published last week in the UK press outlet, ‘The Drinks Business’ on May 20th, was misleading, according to the Consortium.

The harvest of 2014 was hit with some harsh weather and had an average of over 9% less than the maximum yield. According to the Consortium, this resulted in a total certified production of 17.9% more than the previous harvest, to reaching far beyond the target yield put out by forecasters. The Consortium has also ruled out any significant price increase during the summer. Any small increase will only concern ‘entry level’ productions among lower priced products.

Now comprising 18.5% of total exports, the United States is the third-largest market for Prosecco DOC sales behind the United Kingdom and Germany, respectively. The global demand highlights an increasing interest and demand in Italian sparkling wine with which the Consortium’s productions are prepared to keep up.”

That’s interesting.  I wanted to get some additional information on how the perceived “shortage” came about so I reached out the Consortium and was able to speak with Stefano Zanette, president of The Prosecco DOC Consortium to clarify some of the issues brought up in the original article.  My interview with him is below.

NC: According to your press release the 2014 harvest was actually 17.9% higher than the previous vintage.  Where do you think the misconception came from that the harvest was 50% down in some places?

SZ: In some cases, there very well may have been losses of even more than 50% because of hail or disease, but what we have to look at is the data related to the denomination as a whole, which correspond to that which we have provided. I believe that the need to look at particular details and not at the denomination as a whole is the result of individual wineries’ internal company needs.

NC: The Drinks Business article references negociants playing a large role in determining the shortage.  How big of an influence to negociants have on the Prosecco industry? 

SZ: I don’t think negociants have any particular responsibility in this matter. Obviously, if it is discovered that available volume is less than expected, they had to move accordingly too.

NC: The article also references brokers “holding onto” Prosecco stock.  Since one of the virtues of Prosecco is its fresh youthful style, how much stock to you reasonably think brokers could be holding onto?  It seems that would be very risky for the broker.

SZ:  If people were holding on to stock, that will not be able to last longer than the beginning of the next harvest, which we hope will be more bountiful than last year’s.

NC: What is your opinion on the claim that many of the growing areas of the DOC were “newly planted… and yields were down by half in some cases”?  What would you estimate is the area that has been recently planted or replanted in the DOC?

SZ: The issue of the lower yield generally affected the entire denomination and in a haphazard way in a few territories in particular with no correlation between new and old vineyards. The recently planted or replanted vineyards make up approximately 5%.

NC: Do you also share the opinion that “people love Prosecco because it is uncomplicated and quaffable” and that it shouldn’t be taken too seriously?

SZ: I agree that Prosecco “is uncomplicated” and that it “is quaffable,” but I also believe that it is a product that “must be taken seriously” – 306,000,000 bottles is no joke!

So there you have it folks! We can remain calm on the issue of Prosecco for now.  New Zealand on the other hand might deserve some panic and will be the subject of Part 2 of Why is the Wine Gone? Stay tuned!


Header Photo courtesy of the Prosecco DOC Consortium.