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Wednesday’s Meritage #156

February 17, 2021 2 comments

Meritage time!

Once again I’m starting with Open That Bottle Night. February 27th, rain, snow, or shine, will be the time to open that special bottle. If you are not familiar with Open That Bottle Night, please check the previous issue of Meritage or this post. I plan to have a virtual OTBN with friends – anyone who is interested in joining, please send me a message (email, Twitter, Insta – all work), and I will let you know how to connect. Now, I need to make up my own mind and decide what I’m going to open – easier said than done, believe me.

Next, in a bit of a “local news”, I would like to promote the series of posts which I had been running for a long time on this blog – the wine quizzes. These wine quizzes used to be a weekly endeavor until they became just a few a year and then stopped completely. I restarted the series about half a year ago, with the hope of posting a new quiz once every two weeks. I had a number of the wine quiz themes over the years, with one of my favorites asking the readers to identify the wine producer by the image of the top of the bottle – foil, cork, or wax – here is an example of such a quiz. But now I have a new twist on that theme, asking the readers to identify the producers by the fragment of the image of the label, which should be easier than doing it using the bottle tops. Here is an example of such a new quiz. So all I want to do is to encourage all of you who are reading this right now to give it a try – you have nothing to lose!

And now, for the real, global wine news, how about some global wines, or maybe rather “Wines of the World”? It appears that Penfolds, one of the most iconic Australian wine producers (Grange, anyone?), just unveiled the line of California wines. The wines are made from the grapes coming from the vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, and Paso Robles. Continuing Penfolds naming tradition, the wines are identified by the bin numbers, starting from Bin 600 Cabernet-Shiraz, priced at $50, and going to the flagship Quantum Bin 98 Cabernet Sauvignon at $700 per bottle. The top two wines, Quantum Bin 98 and Bin 149 have some of the Australian wine as part of the blend, hence the “Wine of the World” moniker. For more details, you can read the whole story in the Wine Spectator here.

That’s all I have for you today. The glass is empty, but the refill is on the way. Cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage #155

February 3, 2021 1 comment

Meritage time!

I know it is somewhat early, but let’s start with one of my most favorite wine events of the year – OTBN. We are in February already, and that means that OTBN – Open That Bottle Night – is around the corner. OTBN is an event which is more than 20 years old, invented by Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, wine writers behind the “Tastings” column in Wall Street Journal, to help wine lovers to part with those special, cherished, treasured bottles which all of us try to hold on to for as long as possible – and thus often missing an opportunity to drink the wine at its prime. OTBN is celebrated on the last Saturday in February – February 27 this year.

For many years now OTBN had been an important event in my book, as I’m unquestionably one of those hoarders who can never decide on the right time to open the special bottle. Celebrating OTBN paved the way to experience some truly special bottles such as the 1982 Olga Raffault Chinon or 1999 Soldera Brunello. This year, however, will be very different, as it is hard to get together in person. So I would like to suggest that whoever wants to join the virtual OTBN celebration on February 27, please send me a note (you can use the Contact Me form, email, or DM on Twitter) so I will be able to get you a meeting invite closer to the date. And you can already start thinking about that special bottle you will pull from your cellar to celebrate OTBN 2021.

OTBN only happens once a year, but then if you need help deciding what to open, you can turn your attention to the “grape holidays”, as I like to call them – a celebration of individual grapes that are taking place throughout the year. To help you keep track and make sure none of the grapes will be upset with you, here you can find a full list of the dates and grapes to celebrate. Actually, I already missed the Furmint day on February 1st, so yeah, time to focus…

A few more interesting tidbits. James Suckling published the list of all 100 and 99 points wines from 2020. There are 133 wines on the list, 52 of them are 100 points, and 81 are rated at 99. In order to see all the tasting notes you need to be a subscriber, but the list itself is available for free.

On an unrelated note, Wine Spectator produced a video introducing the Spanish wine region of Cariñena, the second oldest winemaking region in Spain and “the region to watch”. The video is short but contains a good amount of information about the history of the region, grapes, winemaking, and more.

That’s all I have for you today. The glass is empty, but the refill is on the way. Cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage #154

January 20, 2021 2 comments

Meritage time!

Today’s issue might be a bit geeky, but let’s roll with the punches, shall we?

First, an interesting ruling from the TTB in regards to the allowed bottle sizes. Until now, the only approved (standard) wine bottle size was 750 ml. Yes, you could go to half (375 ml), or a quarter (187 ml), or up to a liter (1000 ml), and also 500 ml were permitted, but that was about it – for the “standard” bottles, of course, because there are many large formats, such as 1.5L, 2.25L, 3L and so on, which we are not discussing here. Now, to accommodate a fast-growing category of wine in the can, new sizes were introduced – 355ml, 250ml, and 200ml. However, the ruling allows new wine packaging sizes without restricting them to bottles or cans. So now it would be possible to see a 355 ml bottle of wine. While it is only 20 ml less than a standard 375 ml, it is still an option to give you a smaller bottle and keep the price. The level, of course, is not the same as for the typical orange juice cartons, which went from 64 oz to 52 oz while keeping the same price, but still, there is an option for an implicit price increase and some of those “half-bottles” can go into the hundreds of dollars…

Next, I found a few interesting articles in the Wine Spectator. The first one is the story of the Witch’s Wine, which I don’t want to regurgitate just to give an opportunity to read it in its entirety. Then there are a couple of good news in regards to the health benefits of wine.

First, it appears that the consumption of wine and cheese can prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s. The study seems to be reasonably founded: “Analyzing data from the UK Biobank, a biomedical research database, the study followed more than 1,700 participants, ages 46 to 77, over the course of 10 years.” This sounds to me like a good number of subjects and the duration of the study, so I’m sure no wine lover will be upset at the prospect to consume wine with cheese on more occasions. The second study once again looks at the anti-aging effects of resveratrol, an anti-oxidant usually found in red wine. While establishing the long-term benefits of consuming a glass of red wine every day, the study also suggests that consumption of higher amounts of wine doesn’t increase the health benefits of resveratrol, but quite on the contrary can lead to negative consequences.

And the last one for today is all about wine games. Wine Enthusiast summarized 6 games available to wine lovers with different levels of skills and expertise. I only played one of those, Wine Wars, and it was somewhat interesting, depending on the level of the audience. SOMM Blinders sounds really interesting, and I would love to play a Wine-opoly, however, I’m sure I would never win as I can’t take the risk, and thus my son always beats me in Monopoly. Oh well, we need to be able at least to see each other to play any of these, so I’m definitely looking forward to that happy moment…

That’s all I have for you today. The glass is empty, but the refill is on the way. Cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage #153

December 30, 2020 Leave a comment

Meritage time!

This is the last Meritage issue of 2020, so let’s get to it.

I would like to start with the virtual wine event which I plan to attend next year – Oregon Wine Symposium. The event will take place over four days, February 16-19, 2021, in a browser next to you. The event will offer excellent educational and networking opportunities, and if you register before January 15th, you can save 25% off the registration cost. The event is definitely geared towards wine professionals, but I’m sure some of the sessions would well worth any wine lover’s attention.

Next, I would like to once again get back to the subject of the Top 100 Wines lists. James Suckling just made all of the Top 100 Wines reports available for free on JamesSuckling.com. You can use this link to access a large collection of Top 100 reports – Top 100 Wines of the Year, Top 100 wines of Argentina, Austria, Australia, France, Italy, Chile, Spain, Germany, and the United States. A very impressive collection with some eclectic choices, like Alsace wines in the #1 and #2 positions of the French Top 100, or Rieslings taking the first 4 positions in the list of Top Austrian wines. Have fun analyzing those – I’m sure you will make some interesting discoveries.

Not to be outdone, I published the Top 20 of 2020 list of the top wines of 2020. This year’s list takes a step aside from the traditional “top dozen” format and is heavily skewed towards red wines with only 3 white wines, 1 Rosé, and none of the sparkling wines included. Definitely a reflection of 2020 drinking habits.

Here an interesting article from Wine Spectator, talking about Heitz Cellars’ owner and CEO’s quest to preserve some of the historic Napa Valley vineyards. The duo just acquired Stony Hill Vineyard, one of the first wineries built in Napa Valley after the repeal of Prohibition. You can read the full story here.

And the last one for today, really an unexpected one for me. According to this article in Wine Spectator, “a recent study conducted at Iowa State University has found that consuming more wine and cheese over time could help bolster cognitive health as we age.” – isn’t this statement the best music for the winelover’s ears? None of us, wine lovers, needs to be asked twice to double down on wine and cheese consumption, especially if this can help to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Is that the best news to finish the year, or what?

That’s all I have for you today. Until we meet next year, the glass is empty, but the refill is on the way. Cheers!

The New Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia – A Must Have For A Winelover

November 19, 2020 5 comments

Do you like wine books?

Better question: do you read wine books?

Wine book is the next best “wine thing” after the wine itself – assuming you drink wine for pleasure, and not for the effects of alcohol. Reading the wine book gives you the pleasure of learning about your favorite subject, it is available to you any time you want it, and you don’t have to limit your consumption. There is also an ultimate pleasure of nesting in the favorite chair with a book in your hands, and turning off all the annoyances of the world at least for some time.

Only who reads the books today, right?

We live in the times when Google knows all the answers, or at least it pretends that it does, so we can search, find, read, and instantly forget whatever information we obtained. Depending on your luck, that information might be totally wrong or irrelevant, but that can be a subject for the whole other conversation. But when we reach out to Google, we think that we are saving time and doing ourselves a favor by simplifying our lives – all of it instead of opening the book and actually reading to learn and understand. But oh, who has time to read. Hey, google…

Today I want to bring your attention to the book which you don’t have to read. Yep, you heard me right. You don’t really have to read it. But you must have it. Makes no sense? Oh yes, it does.

You want to have “The New Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia” by Tom Stevenson edited by Orsi Szentkiralyi because this is not some general book, this is an encyclopedia. An encyclopedia is a tool. You use it when you need an answer to a question. You use it when you want to deepen your knowledge of a particular subject, be it history of winemaking, wines of Fitou AOC, differences between Cordon de Royat and Geneva Double Curtain vine training systems, or what to do if your wine smells like burnt rubber.

 

This is not a pocket-size book, but this is what makes it great. 800 beautifully illustrated pages (the book is published by the National Geographic, so great imagery is rather expected). This is a sixth edition of the book, containing more than 400 photographs, 120 National Geographic maps, and there is hardly a wine subject or a wine region that escapes the attention of the author.

It was interesting for me to see is a difference in the coverage of the different wine regions – to illustrate what I mean, see the picture below:

If you will look at clips from left to right, the first and the biggest set of pages is covering France, the next small section is dedicated to Italy, the next, even tinier, is Spain, and the last a bigger one is wines of the United States. But really, no wine region is left uncovered, even including such exotic winemaking destinations as China, India, and Japan.

My favorite part might be the last section of the book, called Micropedia. This section is a collection of wine terms and abbreviations. Yes, you can find many of these terms with the help of Google, but it might not be that easy. For example, the very first term explained in the Micropedia is ABC. If you search for “wine ABC” online, the first page which will come up will most likely be dedicated to the ABC wine store (it was for me, at least) – while the ABC used in the wine speak typically means Anything But Chardonnay or Anything But Cabernet. So if you want to know what ABC stands for, or agrafe, rondelle, or uvaggio for that matter, The New Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia will save you lots of time and effort (don’t take my word for it, go search for those terms).

Whether you want to learn about appellation you never heard of, the history of winemaking, or see the map of wine regions in Slovenia, this is the book which you will find the most helpful, no matter what your question is. You can find this book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and you can thank me later for the advice. I’m off to read about Madeira. Cheers!

The New Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia was provided to me as a sample, free of charge. Opinions are my own. 

Wednesday’s Meritage #150

November 4, 2020 Leave a comment

Meritage Time!

In the last issue of Meritage (#149) we talked about Italian police uncovering the crime ring focused on the production of the fake Sassicaia. While essential in its own right, this should be designated as a child’s play comparing with what’s coming. This week the wine press was overflowing with the news that the most famous wine fraudster of modern time, Rudy Kurniawan, is about to be released from jail. This article on wine-searcher is full of predictions for Kurniwan spreading his wings after deportation and doing again what he does best – making fake wine. I guess we will see, but the lovers of the first-growth and DRC should probably take notice.

Tre Bicchieri Gambero Rosso tasting in New York is one of my favorite wine events to attend – this year, it was the last grand wine tasting I managed to attend before covid took the world under its blanket. I don’t think we will have an opportunity to taste the Tre Bicchieri 2021 winners next year, but at least we can read about them in the Tre Bicchieri magazine. I can give you a few of the interesting stats – for example, 46,000 wines were tasted, 467 wines were awarded Tre Bicchieri, and 1,800 wines received Due Bicchieri Rossi award. You can also read about 12 special awards such as Bubbles Of The Year which went to 2011 OP Pinot Nero Dosaggio Zero Farfalla Cave Privée Ballabio, or Meditation Wine Of The Year which went to 1976 Vernaccia Di Oristano Antico Gregori – Contini. Don’t know about you, but I would loooooove to taste Meditation wine of the year…

When it comes to wine, is 20 years a long period of time or not? Of course, it depends. In today’s world, everything is changing fast, and while particular wine in the bottle might only barely start its aging after 20 years, the same 20 years bring a lot of change to the world of wine and wine culture at large. This article by Richard Hemming MW published at JancisRobinson.com looks into some of the changes in wine production, wine consumption, and more.

You know what time of the year this is, right? Yes, the holidays are coming! While the holidays are great, they also bring with them uneasy questions – presents. Presents are difficult and finding some suggestions always helps. If you have a wine lover in your life (and you probably do if you are reading this), here is one list I can recommend to flip through – you might find some good ideas there.

Last but not least – another grape holiday is almost upon us. On Monday, November 9th, we will be celebrating Tempranillo! Tempranillo is one of my absolute favorites, whether in its Rioja, Ribera del Duero, or Toro rendition – but Tempranillo today is one of the most planted and most popular grapes in the world, so you can look for it well beyond Spain. California, Washington, Oregon, Texas, Australia all produce delicious Tempranillo wines. Get your favorite bottle ready and make sure to share your Tempranillo experiences with the world on November 9th.

That’s all I have for you today. The glass is empty, but the refill is on the way. Cheers!

Wine in Numbers

May 14, 2020 Leave a comment

Who likes the numbers? I know that I do. Measuring is important as if you are not measuring, you are getting lost. And getting lost is no fun…

Numbers in wine are always interesting – how many cases were made, bottles sold – not that it is always important to know (unless this is your business), but it is still an interesting exercise.

Today, let’s talk about wine production and import. The folks at the House of Townend in the UK collected and analyzed open source wine production data from 2018, and even converted that data into the graphical form – yep, it is wine infographics we are talking about!

First, here is the world-view of wine production:

You can see that in 2018, Italy was the world leading wine producer with 54.8 million hectoliters (1 hectoliter is equal to 100 liters), following by France (49.1 million), Spain (44.4M), USA (23.9M) and so on.

However, if you will look at the wine production per capita, the picture is changing quite a bit – Spain is becoming an unquestionable leader with 95 liters per capita, followed by Italy and France. Okay, this is not that much different – together, these three European countries produce 51% of the wine in the world.  However, the USA moves down from the 4th place to the 12th, and Portugal moves from the 12th place in the total wine production to the 5th when the calculation is done per capita.

Let’s now see who drinks the wine:

Germany is the world leader in the wine imports, with 14.5 million hectoliters of wine imported in 2018, followed by UK (13.2M), and the United States (11.5M). After spinning the data in a different way – per capita – the situation becomes dramatically different – Belgium is becoming the number one wine importer with 26.31 liters per person, followed by the Netherlands (24.4 liters). The US moves down to the 7th place with 3.08 liters per person, and Japan makes a surprise appearance in the 9th spot with 2.05 liters per person.

There you have it, my friends – a few numbers to ponder at. Best with a glass of wine in hand. Cheers!

Stay At Home Resources for Wine Lover

April 15, 2020 2 comments

Since our world was flipped upside down a few months ago, and home is now one and only place for everything, including all winery visits, wine tastings, wine events, and festivals, I thought I would compile a list of items that might be useful for the wine lovers under the lockdown. I plan to make continuous updates to this list as new resources will come to my attention, so you might even want to bookmark this post.

Buying wine:

This might be a big question for many wine lovers – where to buy wine. Most of the wine stores are closed for in-person visits, and ordering wine via the phone requires you to know exactly what you want. Buying wine online can be done at one’s own pace and allows for thorough research if one desires. Now, as I love value, my two favorite places to buy wine are:

WTSO – this is a flash sale site. Typical WTSO sale is the wines that are priced reasonably well but require a minimum number of bottles to get free shipping. However, WTSO now offers case buys of the wines of your choice for $120 per case, shipping included. WTSO also offers Last Chance Wines, where you can buy wine in single quantities, and still have free shipping.

Last Bottle – another flash sale site; the model is similar to WTSO with a minimum number of bottles required to purchase to get free shipping.

Both WTSO and Last Bottle offer periodic Marathon events where wines can be acquired in the single bottle quantities – but those run once in 3 months or so.

If the price is not a concern and you want premium selection, take a look at Benchmark Wine Group – here you can find DRC at $10K, but you can also find a perfectly aged, 20 years old California Merlot at $20, and it will be still delicious.

Of course, these are not the only sources of wine. You can buy wine from other online retailers such as Wine.com, where you can always get additional discounts (American Express often runs specials for Wine.com, such as $30 off $100 purchase, or you can find other discount codes such as $50 off $150 purchase with the code “CIQ50” (in effect on the date of writing).

Directly from wineries – the absolute majority of wineries today offer flat rate shipping for their wines, sometimes with a minimum purchase required. Shipping can range from $0 to $15. If you have a favorite winery, this is a great option, as it also feels good knowing you are helping a business to stay afloat.

Wine Education:

This might be a perfect time to further your wine education. There is plenty of free educational wine content available everywhere. For example, web sites such as Rioja Wine and Wines of Portugal offer a wealth of information to any wine lover desiring to learn – without the need to spend even a penny. Just use your browser to type in whatever it is you want to learn – and your lessons will start.

Virtual tastings – this might sound like a misnomer at first – what is the point of watching winemaker tasting and talking about the wines if you don’t have the same wines in front of you – but then there is a possibility of doing it correctly. For example, Tablas Creek, one of the Rhone-style pioneers from Paso Robles, is offering a special virtual tasting pack of 4 half bottles – now you can actually follow along and learn. Tablas Creek is not the only winery which found the right way to do the virtual tasting – a quick search in Google for “virtual tasting pack” yielded names such as Clos Du Val, Benovia Winery, Rutherford Hill Winery, Project M Wines, Pindar Vineyards, and Stony Hill Vineyard, all offering specially designed packs for your next virtual tasting.

Wine Books – there are myriads of the wine books, of course. Here is the compilation of the wine books I personally like which you can buy off Amazon. I can offer you also another list – these are the books recommended by Wine Spectator magazine, well worth your attention.

Wine Entertainment:

Movies – movies are probably the most popular form of entertainment and considering the popularity of the wine, there is plenty to look for. You can look up the old movies, such as Sideways or the Bottle Shock. You can also watch the SOMM (available on Amazon Prime), or some of the most recent movies such as Uncorked on Netflix, or The Wine Guys again on Amazon Prime.

Wine Blogs – there are thousands and thousands of wine blogs. A lot of them are entertaining, and a lot of them are not – you will need to find what speaks to you. To help you with that, here is the list of Top 100 wine blogs according to the Feedspot. Also, this very blog you are reading (and I want to thank you for that), had been around for more than 10 years – there are many of the posts here which you might find interesting and entertaining, such as a series of the April 1st posts, winemaker’s interviews, or wine and grape quizzes.

Wine communities:

Last but very far from least is the issue of self-isolation. It is not easy to be stuck between four walls, without knowing when the life will restart. It definitely helps to have a community of sorts, just to be able to talk to other like-minded human beings. Videoconferencing today helps you greatly to solve this problem. You can use Facetime, Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, skype to talk to your friends one on one. You can also get a free account on zoom.us, and your world will become a little, tiny bit more comfortable. Another option might be to join one of the existing wine groups on Facebook, such as #Winelover (more than 26.5K members) or Friends Who Like Wine In The Glass (more than 10K members) – or you can start your own wine group on Facebook – it is really easy.

The self-isolation will pass. The virus will pass. Use this time as an opportunity to self-reflect, learn and grow. It’s all going to be alright.

Latest Wine News and Updates

April 1, 2020 5 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!

Daily Glass: Cab And The Whole Nine Yards

January 24, 2020 2 comments

I’m sure you are well familiar with the phrase “The whole 9 yards” – technically translating into “lots of stuff”. You know what the fun part is? Nobody knows where this expression came from. There is a lot of research, a lot of “true origin” claims and an equal amount of disparaging remarks about the other side not knowing a squat about the subject (which seems to be the sign of times, sigh). We are not here to research or discuss the expression – my intention is to talk about a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon, but I will also give you the whole nine yards of related and unrelated “things”.

Everything started with a simple task – I was in need of the present for a friend’s birthday. My typical present is a bottle of wine of the birth year vintage (1977). However, it is getting more and more difficult to find the wine of such an old vintage at a reasonable price or even at all. After spending some time with Wine-Searcher and Benchmark Wine website, and finding nothing but a few bottles of the vintage Port, I decided that it is the time for the plan B, which means simply finding an interesting bottle of wine.

Next problem – where should I look for an interesting bottle of wine? Online seems to be the most obvious choice – but just to make things more interesting, I have to tell you that my gift recipient owns two liquor stores – yep, surprising him is not a trivial task.

Do you have an American Express credit card? Of course, you are wondering what it has to do with our story? It is most directly related. If you have the American Express credit card (AMEX for short), and if you ever looked at your account online, you probably saw the section called Amex Offers & Benefits. In that section, you can find 100 special offers, allowing you to earn additional points or save money on different items you can buy with the AMEX card. I have a good experience with these offers, these are real savings, so I have a habit of periodically logging into the account and scrolling through the offers. One of the offers I saw quickly attracted my attention – save $50 on a $150 purchase at WineAccess. I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a very good deal for me.

I was not familiar with Wine Access, so I got to the website to see if I can actually put this offer to good use. First thing I saw on the site is that $120 or 6 bottles purchase includes shipping, and if you are buying wine online, you know that shipping cost is one of the most annoying elements of the wine buying experience, so this made deal even sweeter – in case I can find something interesting.

I can’t tell you why and how, I first decided to search for Grosset, one of the very best Australian Riesling producers, and to my surprise and delight, I found Grosset Riesling available. So now I needed to add something else to reach my target number – $150.

I found an interesting Bordeaux, and next, I noticed a red blend from the Three Wine company in Napa, one of my favorite producers. My excitement happened to be premature, as once I started the checkout process, created an account and set my shipping address in Connecticut, I found out that I can’t complete my purchase as Three Wine red blend can’t be shipped to Connecticut (don’t you love US wine laws?).

I had to restart my search, and now I noticed Napa Cabernet Sauvignon called Idiosyncrasy – never heard of it, but Oakville Cab for $25 (this was a 50% discount off a standard price of $50) – why not to try one? I got two bottles, one for me, and one for my friend – done and done.

Once the order was placed I decided to check what exactly I just bought. I did a search for the Idiosyncrasy Cabernet online. I didn’t find too many references, but I did find a post which was very critical of the wine, saying that it was thin, and under-extracted Cabernet Sauvignon, absolutely no worthy of $43 which author paid for the wine. I also learned that this wine was specially produced for the Wine Access wine club by the well-known winemaker.

Truth be told – I don’t like wine clubs. What I learned about the wine, didn’t add confidence to my decision. Oh well – now I just had to wait for the shipment to arrive.

I didn’t have to wait for a long, the box showed up on the doorstep in a few days. Upon opening, I found not only 6 bottles which I ordered, but also neat, well-designed information cards – you can see it here:

Each card offered the story related to the wine, pairing suggestions, ideal drinking window put on the bottle tag which could be easily separated from the page and hang on the bottle in case you store it in the cellar. The back of the info card offered space for personal notes. Again, very well designed – would make any oenophile happy.

I read the story of the Idiosyncrasy Cabernet Sauvignon – it was written from the first person, as winemaker talked about his experience and how he came to the creation of this wine specifically for the Wine Access wine club. While the winemaker mentioned his work at Quintessa, Lail, Dalla Valle, and Purlieu, his latest adventure, his name was not found anywhere on the page. I had to figure out that his name was Julien Fayard by visiting Purlieu website.

Nice paper and story are important, but the truth is in the glass. Remembering the bad review, I poured the glass of 2016 Idiosyncrasy Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Napa Valley (14.9% ABV), ready to be disappointed. To my delight, I was not. The keyword to describe this wine would be “elegant”. Varietally correct nose with touch cassis and mint. On the palate, the wine was rather of Bordeaux elegance – less ripe but perfectly present fruit, a touch of bell pepper, firm structure, perfect balance (Drinkability: 8/8+). Was this the best Cabernet Sauvignon I ever tasted? It was not. Was it the wine I would want to drink again? Absolutely, any day. Was it a good value at $25? This was a great value at $25, and even at $50, it would still be a good value.

Here you go, my friends – a story of the Cabernet Sauvignon and the whole nine yards. Cheers!

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