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Latest Wine News and Updates

April 1, 2020 4 comments

Of course, it would be too much to say that wine is in the center of everyone’s attention – but it is a beloved beverage for hundreds of millions, and some tens of millions are involved in wine industry one way or the other, so the wine news definitely gathers some attention.

From time to time, I share in this blog some of the interesting tidbits of what’s going on in the wine world, so here is the latest round of newsworthy happenings around the globe.

When you hear Chateau d’Yquem, what do you think of first? Of course, the quintessential Sauternes, the magical elixir not even produced in all the years. But – do you know that Chateau d’Yquem also produces dry white wine? It is called “Y”, and it is a tasty blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Last month, Chateau d’Yquem announced that they will be expanding their portfolio and adding … wait for it … a red wine which will be called Y Not. It appears that 5 years ago, Chateau d’Yquem replaced some of their Sauvignon Blanc plantings with the Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, and now it is ready to produce the first vintage. The 2019 Y Not will be released in 2022. The price had not been disclosed at the moment, but considering the total production of 300 cases, you can imagine that it will not be inexpensive.

We are not done with Chateau d’Yquem yet. It leaked to the press that venerable Harlan Estate from Napa Valley, one of the topmost cult wine producers in the USA, enlisted the help of Chateau d’Yquem to start production of the dessert wine! The wine will be produced from the late harvest Cabernet Sauvignon. It is expected that the wine will be aged for at least 2 years in the mix of old and new French oak barriques, and probably 1 year in the bottle. The wine will be called Sweet Baby Harlan, and the 2020 vintage will be offered to the mailing list members at one 375 ml bottle per customer with the starting price of $1,100. Considering the tiny production, this wine will be impossible to get for a while.

Our next news is really bazaar. It’s been reported in The Eagle-Tribune in North Andover, Massachusetts that a number of Market Basket supermarkets experienced a little mayhem in the bottled juice section of the stores – the juice bottles (narrowed down to the grape juice bottles only after the few incidents) started to blow up at random, covering customers in sweet and sticky liquid. The culprit was traced to the popular brand of grape juice – Welch’s. Welch’s recalled all of the grape juice bottles sold in Massachusetts supermarket and opened the investigation into the incident. Based on the initial analysis, it appears that the yeast was added to the bottles at the final steps of the production, and as you know, the combination of yeast and sugar is how the wine is made, so blown up bottles come at no surprise. Apparently, some of the customers who managed to get the unexploded bottle to the homes were pleasantly surprised with the bubbly version of the popular grape juice, and some are even planning to start a petition to Welch’s to make this new type of grape juice a new product, possibly using some reinforced bottles.

It is not a secret that Australian winemakers are always eager and willing to step away from traditions and try the pioneering technologies, no matter how unorthodox they are. A simple example is a so-called screw cap, also known as Stelvin, which was developed in the late 1960s, and Yalumba winery in Australia become one of the early adopters introducing new bottle closure in 1973. Now another Australian wine producer, Penfolds, maker of the legendary Grange, decided to step in with a brand new solution for reducing the carbon footprint of the wine, which the wine industry is constantly grilled for. With the help of scientists at The University of Adelaide, Penfolds developed a brand new plastic bottle that is completely safe for storing the wine. Not only it is lightweight, but it is also made from the recycled materials and – get this – biodegradable. The bottle is guaranteed to fully disintegrate in 5 years’ time. The only culprit? The bottle will disintegrate in 5 years no matter what, so it will not be any time soon that we will see Penfolds Grange offered in this form of packaging. But for all the regular wines, which should be consumed as they are acquired, this will be a perfect vessel. Just don’t “leave and forget” such a bottle in your cellar – or you will remember it for a long time…

While the wine industry is squarely rooted in traditions, it is never shy to enlist the latest technology to help to advance its cause – helping people to enjoy their life a little bit more. Knowing when to open the bottle of wine to ensure the best possible experience is one of the most difficult problems of any oenophile, whether he or she is a Master Sommelier or an occasional drinker consuming two bottles of wine a year. Some of the most technologically advanced companies in the wine industry, world-famous specialty glass producer, Riedel, and Coravin Wine Systems, maker of the popular wine dispensing solution, teamed up to create a product which they called Smart Bottle. Seemingly indistinguishable from the regular glass bottle, the Smart Bottle is equipped with the array of sensors which constantly monitor the state of the wine inside the bottle, and will inform the owner when the bottle reached the ideal consumption phase via embedded Wi-Fi transmitter directly to the owner’s phone. While working on the design of the Smart Bottle, both companies filed about 25 patents. Apparently all leading wine producers in the world – DRC, Petrus, Chateau Latour, Screaming Eagle, Sine Qua Non and many, many others already lined up to get the Smart Bottle as soon as it will be released. An important and attractive feature of the Smart Bottle is the ability for producers to set up the proper aging profile specific to their particular wine, as it is clear that ideal indications, let’s say for DRC and Sine Qua Non will be quite different. Riedel and Coravin reported that they are finishing field trials and the production is slated to start in 2021.

That’s all the latest news I have for you, my friends. Until the next time – cheers!

War Of The Glasses: Does Wine Glass Matters?

July 6, 2011 4 comments

Of course the topic of wine glasses and their effect on wine’s perceived quality (which includes smell, taste and overall pleasure) is a very popular subject among wine lovers (professionals are also not immune to such discussions). I have no intention to claim any original or unique thoughts on the subject – instead, I want to merely report on my own personal experiment.

We started with 6 different glasses and a bottle of wine. For this experiment, I wanted to use a wine with classic flavor profile, nothing too obscure – seems that Cabernet Sauvignon would ideally fit the bill. I can tell you now that I was moderately happy with the choice of wine. While I like Cosentino wines, this 2005 Cosentino Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was more fruit forward than I appreciate, but still it was not a very bad choice.

The glasses included: Riedel Cabernet Sauvignon Glass, Riedel Universal tasting (also can be called “restaurant special”, 489 0 in Riedel nomenclature) glass (holds 20 oz), a wide open, almost “square” glass (don’t know if it has a special name), small (8 oz) universal tasting glass, plastic cup and small paper cup.


Now for the notes (results are presented in the exact succession as glasses were assessed):

Riedel Cabernet Glass:
Nose: big concentration, noticeable alcohol, smell of a wet dog (must be something wrong with me)
Palate: lots of fruit, black currant, still quite sharp

Riedel Universal (489 0):
Nose: good concentration of the fruit, alcohol is less noticeable
Palate: very good fruit, round taste

“Square” glass:
Nose: some fruit are a bit more open (black currant), overall less alcohol, less fruit concentration.
Palate: taste is ok, a bit less of everything

Small universal tasting glass (8 oz):
Nose: almost like previous one, noticeable fruit
Palate: the softest of all! Nice round fruit

Plastic cup:
Nose: literally nothing
Palate: ok, similar to the one above

Paper cup:
Nose: none
Palate: bad

Let’s try to come up with some conclusions now. I think two universal tasting glasses fared the best – size difference didn’t matter. Of course bigger glass was more convenient to use, but outside of aesthetics of wine appearance in a bigger glass, they delivered literally the same flavor and taste. We can also safely say that paper cups shouldn’t be used if you are drinking wine to enjoy it (that was a definite looser). Plastic cup can be used, but you will lose the pleasure of the smell, so if you can avoid it, then avoid it. “Square” glass was okay, but again you will be losing on the aroma details. Lastly, Riedel Cabernet glass still requires more experiments. It was definitely not the best glass in this tasting, but I believe that it might enhance the taste of some particular Cabernet wine, most likely less alcohol, old-world style wine, where it will actually be able to enhance subtle aromas and flavors.

For now, don’t drink your wine from the paper cups, and save the money by avoiding those super-expensive “specialty” glasses, and you will do quite well. And if you have an opinion (different one? even better!) – leave a comment, and let’s have a debate. Cheers!

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