Tag Archives: Italian Wine

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.

Harvest 2011: How California became Italy

This year has had it all.  We started with heavy frost on the Central Coast, rain during bloom and spring hail.  The craziness continued with a long temperate summer which was punctuated by few heat spikes (if you can call mid 90s a heat spike out here).  Growers fought Powdery Mildew and numerous invasive insect species all summer including the European Grapevine Moth, Light Brown Apple Moth, and the Oriental Fruitfly.  For those growers who were able to get through the gauntlet of summer, everything was looking perfect until early October when the rain came back and brought with it watered down flavors, muted colors, and botrytis.  As I woke to the sound of frost fans in northern Napa Valley today I felt that we had come full circle. 

 

Today is the last day of harvest for Asti Winery.  We’ve survived although the last three weeks have been crazy and stressful.  It’s also a time of reflection over the wines that are fermenting away from this vintage.  The floral whites are beautiful.  Marked by crisp acid and intense white flower and spice notes, the Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer have really stood out this harvest.  The Chardonnays that were harvested before the first October rain, while lower in alcohol, are displaying elegant fruit flavors and balanced acids.  The alcohol conversions on whites this year were insanely high.  Sugars that were picked at 23 Brix are topping out in the 13.5% range showing extremely efficient yeast conversion.  Chardonnays picked after the rains look to be less concentrated than the pre-rain picks plus they are showing Botrytized characters that lean towards a bit earthy in most cases.  Luckily most of our lots are pre-rain thanks to the hustle of our vineyard crews and growers. 

 

It was yesterday as we tasted through pressed off Cabernets though when I came to the realization that my tasting notes were not that of a typical California Cabernet.  Aromas of raspberry leaves, black currants, and sous-bois shined through in the best examples with high acid and moderate alcohol on the palate paired with moderately high powdery tannins.  Granted these wines are pre-ML and have not seen oak for the most part but it struck me as very similar to my notes on Cabernet  from Tuscany.  As we’ve been saying all along, this vintage will be vastly different from what has become the norm in California.  There will be some bad wine out there, I’m sure, but I believe that there will also be a new style of California wine to be found this year.  All the proponents that have been wishing for lower alcohol, this is your year!  The reds had the opposite issue from the whites as the conversion rates were very low. Even the higher Brix reds (which were anything over 24 this year) are only showing in the high 13% range.  It’s going to be interesting to see how these wines develop and how each winery dealt with this challenging year.  Most of all I feel sorry for anyone who gets one of this vintage on a blind exam down the road because it’s going to be so different from what is accepted as a typical California style.

 

As for me, I’m looking forward to capturing the spirit of this vintage in my wines this year.  I think it will be fun!

Harvest 2011 – Week 5 – Things REALLY get moving…

This week we’ve started seeing far more grapes than the previous week.  Our Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc were joined by our first Chardonnay of the season!  Fruit quality looks really nice and acids are still staying put thanks to the more moderate day time temperatures as well as the cool nights.  The Alexander Valley reds are showing signs of the same incredible color that 2010 brought us and we should start seeing Lodi Cabernet and Merlot being harvested over the next two weeks.  For Asti it seems after a crazy end to last week, Week 6 will come in like a lion and go out like a lamb as we enter the first slump of the season.  This will give us a chance to catch our breath and take stock of how things are going.  The weather for week 6, however is forecasted to be a good deal warmer than week 5 with several days topping out around 100 degrees!  Hopefully they won’t go much above that so we can avoid the September heat spike that we saw last year. 

 

I’m playing with the first Alexander Valley fruit from this season which is a Gewurztraminer from a vineyard in Geyserville which was harvested last Wednesday.  It’s packed with flavor and did retain some acid which is fantastic for the variety that is famous for losing acid like a woman loses last season’s out of style shoes.  I’ve set it up for a long, cool fermentation so the yeast can form the beautiful terpene compounds that make up the fruit and spice notes in the final wine.  I’m also playing with some Pinot Gris from Lodi with a couple of different yeast strains so that should be interesting to see how it goes.

 

As promised here is the red variety group from Week 4’s interesting varietal tasting!

 

Latitude 50 N Sekt Trocken Rose  Germany  $14.99

Light and Bubbly

With amazing aromas of strawberries and cotton candy this wine offered fantastic quality for the price.  A medium- dry style balanced with crisp acid and intense citrus flavors.  It’s a blend of Portugeser, Dornfelder, and Pinot Noir.  A perfect bubbly for everyday drinking at a great price, all of us decided to go in on a case!

 

Studert- Prum Wehlener Nonnenberg 2008 Dornfelder  Germany ~$25.00

Elegant and Floral

I have a soft spot for this variety because it’s one of the first reds I ever worked with in Pennsylvania, of all places.  However this also showed to be the hardest variety to find in the tasting. It’s known for intense aromas of Strawberries and cherries and this wine did not disappoint.  It was dry with moderate acid, medium alcohol and smooth tannins.  It’s worth the search as this was one of the best Dornfelders that I’ve ever had!

 

E. Pira Chiara Boschis Dolcetto d’Alba 2009 Italy    $19.99    

Elegant and Floral

This variety makes a light and easy to drink red which is perfect for lighter fare.  Moderate aromas of cherries, bramble fruits, red plum, and figs introduce the wine which has a dry palate with medium + acid and moderate alcohol.  The tannins are firm and structured but ripe.  This is a great food wine. 

Umathum 2008 Zweigelt Burgenland Austria    $16.99

Spicy and Smoky

This was a dark brooding wine with smoky gamey notes complemented by black cherry and plum.  The palate is dry with medium + acid, moderate alcohol and strong structured tannins.  Zweigelt may be a good alternative to Merlot or Syrah for those seeking something different.  This one was really nice.

 

Montebuena Rioja 2009   $9.99

Power Punch

Made with 100% Tempranillo this wine is true to form with aromas of cherries, raisins, lemon zest and vanilla.  The palate is dry with medium acid, moderately high alcohol, and strong, textured tannins.  Right now Spain is offering some great value for the money.  Anywhere else this would easily be an $18-20 quality wine.

 

Quinta das Maias Tinto 2004 Dao   $11.99

Power Punch

Another value to be had currently is dry reds made from Port varieties.  This wine is a blend of 60% Jaen, 25% Touriga Nacional, 10% Alfrocheiro and 5% Tinta Roriz.  The nose is intense with aromas of coconut, almonds, vanilla, and cherries.  American oak is clearly a favorite with this producer.  The palate is dry with moderate acid, medium + alcohol, and a full body filled with flavors of cherries, dried dates and raisins.