Skepticism

Skeptical Wine-ing, Part I: Wine Pricing

Last month, the NYT reported that wine dealer Rudy Kurniawan was convicted of fraud after successfully passing off regular wine he’d mixed in his kitchen as sought-after, top-end bottles. This man swindled wine collectors out of large amounts of money, made a mockery of those who are supposed to be able to catch these things, and raised an obvious question: What is the difference between his own mixed-up bottlings and top-end wine? Did his success in passing it off reveal wine hierarchy––and pricing––to be a huge scam?

According to many comments I saw from strangers and friends outside the wine industry who read and shared the article, he’s a hero. He showed the world that the emperor––the almighty wine industry––has no clothes. He proved that there’s no difference between Two-Buck Chuck and the most expensive wine in the world (currently that title goes to a special-edition Balthazar, or three-gallon bottle, of 2009 Château Margaux, which at $195,000 comes with a trip to the Bordeaux winery). He’s the Robin Hood of the wine industry.

Having worked in the wine industry since 2009, I’ve seen my share of fraud. I’ve seen wineries boast that their sub-par wines are “medal-earners,” knowing that gold medals from festivals are a dime a dozen. I’ve watched Dr. Oz tell the world that only the wines of Sardinia, eaten with a hunk of Sardinian cheese, will offer them the heart-protecting benefits of antioxidants, and that their beloved malbec simply won’t do the job. I’ve seen wine labels advertise “organic,” “biodynamic,” “no sulfites detected,” and “sustainable,” and I’ve seen that public interpretation of those labels isn’t always accurate. I’ve seen customers ask incredulously why I’m recommending a wine that received 89 points (from whom, it doesn’t seem to matter) when there’s a 90-point wine right next to it on the shelf. I’ve poured cabernet franc for tasting room customers who responded with a snarky, “Cab franc? I don’t really expect greatness from cab franc,” seemingly assuming I wouldn’t recognize it as a line straight out of the movie Sideways.

Do I think the wine industry is out to swindle us all? Do I think we should all take our jugs of Carlo Rossi and heave them through the windows of the American Wine Society? No. I don’t believe in Big Corkscrew. But I do believe in the possibility of getting screwed over, and I think we wine people (I’ve worked as a tasting room associate, cellar hand, wine writer, wine retail associate, and bartender, and I currently blog about wine and my own winemaking efforts––shameless plug) need to do a better job of making the beverage we love a little less confusing. In a series of posts over the next few months, I’d like to put my obsession with wine science research to work explaining some of the most common wine misconceptions and controversies. My goal? To make the point that wine needn’t be mysterious to be romantic and fun, anymore than science need be clouded by “wonder” in order to be awe-inspiring.

In the spirit of Mr. Kurniawan’s con, let’s start with wine pricing. Is there any difference between his mixtures and a $5,000 Bordeaux? What makes those wines so expensive?

I find it helpful to think of wine as food, since in a way it is. You have your Wonder Bread, and you have your 12-grain Health Nut. Just as you have your moderately priced California chardonnay, your $300 Super Tuscan (best-named wine style ever), and your Little Black Dress pinot grigio, you have your saffron threads at $15 a jar and you have your basic all-purpose flour. You have noma and you have McDonald’s. In theory, more expensive wines offer what more expensive meals should offer: ingredients grown with care and sourced thoughtfully, made well, with a bit of a story perhaps, all culminating in a more memorable experience than your average PB&J or Franzia.

The trouble is that Franzia is still a luxury item, because wine isn’t a basic human need (and that’s coming from a writer) in the same way that food is. So spending a lot on wine tends to grate on us a little more than spending a lot on food––we have to eat, right? It just depends what and where––and, yet, a single bottle of wine is at minimum the cost of a food truck lunch and at most a down payment on a house. So we have a lot more variation, a wider swing, a higher starting point, and less knowledge about what we’re actually paying for. Add to that the perception (and to some extent, the reality) of wine enjoyment as a “bougie” enterprise thanks to the free time and disposable income required to learn about it, and it’s easy to understand why discovering inexpensive yet delicious wine feels like cheating the system.

Nutrition is confusing enough, but most people know more about how a sandwich is made than how wine is made; we prepare at least basic food for ourselves every day. Here’s a rough summary of what consistently goes into the price of a wine:

 

The price of the grapes. This is huge. Some wineries grow their own grapes on-site; others buy them from vineyards of their choice. Either way, land in well-established wine regions is anywhere from expensive to impossible to obtain and a particular site has a huge influence on the flavor, quantity, and quality of the grapes (that’s its own book, but I’ll get into it more in this series). A good viticulturist or vineyard manager will coax the best possible grapes out of the vines––battling weather threats like hail, frost, and sun damage, as well as pests, hungry animals, and diseases––and they have to pay a team of workers to help maintain the vines in season and pick the grapes or run the harvesting machines in the fall. Wine labels often spend a lot of time focusing on the location of the vineyard; wine is supposed to express its “sense of place,” and it’s widely accepted in the wine industry that “wine is made in the vineyard”––the frequently added winemaker’s motto is “so just don’t mess it up.”

Lower-quality fruit can be sweetened, acidified, blended, and/or manipulated with various enzymes, additives, and winemaking procedures to produce the ripe, fruity, juicy character most people want in an inexpensive wine, which is why many people will say they think Yellow Tail Shiraz tastes better than a $100 aged French wine: they’re used to wines made to taste like “more” of everything––more alcohol, more fruitiness, more tannin from the grape skins––just like fast food cranks up the salt and sugar and fat to 11 so it’ll satisfy cheaply. And just as I will go headfirst like Pete Rose into a large order of fries and a Wendy’s Frosty on occasion, I will happily drink many brands of cheap wine. It’s all about mood and setting.

The time, equipment, and labor needed for production. Sorting the grapes! Pressing the grapes! Fixing the grape press! Ordering a new grape press from the Germans and hiring a German engineer to come out and show you how to use it! Aging the wine in oak barrels, which aren’t cheap and can only be used about four times! Wine equipment is big and expensive and breaks down and often takes a long time to do its job. The time between the harvesting of the grapes and the bottle landing on your local store shelf is anywhere from six months to five years or more (many world-renowned wineries can afford to hold, and age, their wines several years before release, as I’ll discuss in a future post on aging wine). What’s in your bottle has to pay for these things.

The salary of the winemaker, the winery team, and probably the owner. It’s been said that the best way to make a small fortune in the wine business is to start with a large fortune. While owners are often wealthy (celebrity forays into wine abound), you don’t typically see winemakers buying yachts and second homes in the Caribbean. But they have to eat, and the best ones in the world are staking their reputations and careers on something that’s highly influenced by weather in an increasingly unstable global climate. They deserve to charge for this, and they do. Their team will put in hundreds of overtime hours during harvest season, when wine cellars need attention nearly round-the-clock. (That said, labor cost is a huge conversation in the wine world right now; stay tuned on that.)

 

Then there are several X-factors. Here’s where we really get into the realm of “wine mystique,” and where I’d like to spend the rest of this discussion.

 

The grape or grapes involved. Thanks to Sideways, everyone knows that pinot noir is delicate, sensitive, heartbreaking, and so many stereotypically feminine metaphors. That means you can charge a lot for a bottle of pinot. It’s not easy to find a good one under $20. Blending generally takes extra time and risks, so blends are often more expensive than single-grape (the term is “varietal”) bottlings, but with the rise in popularity of “kitchen-sink” blends like Apothic Red and Red Truck, which assume that the consumer doesn’t really care what’s in the blend and just wants a smooth “table red,” that’s changing. When discussing what to charge for a new wine, the grape varietal always comes into the discussion. People are more willing to pay for certain grapes than others, and some grapes are legitimately harder to grow or harder to find. You can get a great Finger Lakes riesling, New York’s signature wine, for $13, but expect to drop considerably more for something like Red Tail Ridge’s delicious teroldego ($40) in part because it’s a rarity in the Finger Lakes. Many wine geeks, myself included, simply can’t resist trying something unfamiliar or rare.

Scarcity. If only 50 cases of your reserve riesling exist in the world, you can charge more than you do for your everyday riesling of which you have 500 cases. The most expensive wines in the world are also some of the rarest.

Vintage. The weather and factors like animal damage and disease contribute to every growing season; if you had a summer full of sunny, hot days that lasted well into October, your friendly neighborhood vines, particularly the reds, had a great year too. Vintages are rated just like wines, and fantastic vintages bring fantastic quality, and accompanying prices. However, a great vintage means middle-of-the-road producers can often make unusually stellar wines, and those will be cheaper because of the lack of name recognition; by the same token, in poor vintages great producers will often still make great, though slightly cheaper, wines. Both circumstances result in values for us if we’re willing to do a little homework!

Specificity of the label. The more specific the information given on a wine label, generally speaking, the more a winery can charge for it. This is because certain designated regions, American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), and even vineyards or “blocks” (sections) of vineyards are thought, or shown through analysis of the soil, climate, and finished product, to result in a distinct flavor or character in wines; it’s like a great musician in a band getting a chance to do a solo. Make a single-vineyard wine, and you can charge for both the specificity and the extra work involved in nurturing its unique character with an individualized winemaking process (separate fermentation, separate aging, etc.). Make a single-vineyard series, and you can give tasting room guests a chance to try them all together and experience your region’s diversity.

The prestige of the region. Why is it relatively easy for me to sell a customer a $50 Bordeaux blend, but selling a $25 South African wine made with the same grapes requires me to deliver an impassioned monologue? Because Bordeaux and Burgundy are the historical king and queen of the French wine industry––and, thus, the king and queen of the wine industry itself. (That said, you can find good inexpensive Bordeaux, it’s just not as easy to find as rather boring inexpensive Bordeaux.) This is one of the reasons I love Italian wine: for all the country’s wine history, wine-drinking culture, and prestigious producers, I can walk into most wine stores and find a dynamite Italian bottle for $12 to bring on a dinner date.

The prestige of the producer or brand. Just as any company builds up a reputation for its products, wineries can build up reputations both within the wine community and in the general public. Yellow Tail has brand recognition––love it or hate it, you know what you’re getting. Certain California brands like Cakebread and Plumpjack have brand recognition among a certain type of monied wine drinker, and anyone who’s been a fine-dining server has seen the result. Cheval Blanc, a storied Bordeaux producer, made it into both Sideways (in which Paul Giamatti’s Miles seems to forget that it contains his two least-favorite grapes, merlot and cab franc, as he rapturously sips it from a styrofoam cup) and Bottle Shock, and big Tuscan names like Sassicaia and Ornellaia have achieved legendary status among collectors. Their price tags reflect it.

Presence of organic or biodynamic certification. Thanks to the popularity of organic, “GMO free,” “free range,” and similar food categories and classifications, people are familiar with––and seek out––organic wine, and aren’t surprised when it’s more expensive. Biodynamic is generally perceived to mean “super, SUPER organic” by those who aren’t familiar with this very specific certification (it’ll get its own post in this series, of course).

 

So what about Kurniawan and his wine-mixing? For starters, he wasn’t passing off Black Box as Romanée-Conti; he was a renowned dealer in the industry, so he knew the wines he was faking. It’s plausible to me that if you mix together high-end but not top-of-the-line wines in enough different combinations, you could get something that might, at least on initial sipping, pass for a classic. Still, the NYT reported that it was questions from suspicious buyers, as well as a couple of careless historical inaccuracies, that initially cast doubt upon the wines: “A 1947 Burgundy lacked the ‘unctuousness’ one would expect from a great wine. And the 1961 Petrus seemed ‘a little young.’” It’s impressive that the differences weren’t more obvious or immediate, but tasting wines by themselves––as opposed to in a flight with others of similar value, vintage, or producer––is extremely difficult. Next time you have the opportunity to attend a wine tasting, say, at a local wine shop or coffee house, try several wines next to each other, and if you pay attention I bet you’ll notice differences between them. But could you recognize just one of them, alone, in your glass six months later? I know a lot of people who are great at blind tasting, but even then it’s rare to see someone identify a wine down to a specific label, especially if they haven’t  had it before.

I’ve neither had the enormous personal wealth nor the connections required to amass a cellar of the kind of wines Kurniawan was dealing––they cost thousands upon thousands per bottle and many aren’t even available to the general public. I have, through my various wine jobs, had the opportunity to try thousands of great wines, including a few at the high-end level. (For those of you who care: 1989 Château Haut-Brion, a couple of 2003 Guigal “La Las”, a 1995 Kanonkop Paul Sauer blend from South Africa, and a 1999 Louis Jadot Gevrey-Chambertin would top my “don’t see that every day” list.) Based on that experience, here’s what I think.

There are perfectly good wines out there for $6. There’s also a lot of crap at that price, but hey, you’ve only spent $6. There’s a quality jump between sub-$10 and $15 that I think most people would agree exists, if given a selection of such wines of the same grape to try side-by-side. Going up doesn’t guarantee quality, it just gives you more options and a better chance of finding something awesome. There’s another quality jump to the $30–$50 range; with a little research and advice or luck you can find truly amazing, memorable bottles in this range. After that, it becomes very, very difficult to guess a wine’s price. That ’89 Haut-Brion? Magical. Poetic. Nuanced and graceful and just lovely. But not the best wine I’ve ever had. That honor goes to a $300 Tuscan wine from Casanova di Neri that my friends didn’t even think was all that astounding––wine enjoyment, like food enjoyment, is to a large extent subjective and based on memories, mood, taste, and context. But it spoke to me, and I can still taste it, years later. If I had to pick a third, it would be a five-way tie between wines in the $30 to $50 range.

If I won the lottery, I might buy one bottle of Romanée-Conti just to see what all the fuss is about. But then I’d fill up the rest of my shopping cart with wines $50 or less from around the world, rather than a handful of “priceless” classic bottlings, because based on everything I’ve tasted I think I’d have much more fun that way.

But that’s just me. Wine is personal, and I don’t begrudge anyone with the means the chance to feed their passion. I do think this case merits a closer look at just how much faking there might be at the highest level of wine dealing––but as a journalist, I’m also very aware that for most people this seems like a total nonissue because we’ll never get to taste these wines. One of Kurniawan’s lawyers said he’d been “singled out,” that the case reflected the “don’t ask, don’t tell” nature of the high-end wine trade, and it’s an interesting choice of words: a shroud of mystery has always ensured that the world’s best wines were only accessible to a select few. Now that millenials are more interested in wine but not necessarily the wine critics, points, or pretentious cellars that have always come with it, the knowledge barrier may be slowly––slowly––chipping away, and while the highest-end wines may still be out of reach, that doesn’t mean a very exciting and diverse world of inexpensive to moderate wines isn’t worth taking the time to research and explore.

juliagulia

juliagulia

juliagulia is a wine professional and freelance writer with an interest in social justice. She has been known to drink Grenache with PB&J.

Previous post

Global Quickies: 11/01/14

Next post

Skepchick Quickies 1.13

31 Comments

  1. January 12, 2014 at 11:32 am —

    Of course, there is a major irony in that some alcohols **are** mixed, intentionally, to retain the original flavor, as close as possible, because each batch can be different, and getting that right is ***why*** they cost more than the cheap stuff. Apparently.. wine you have to keep “pure”, and just go around saying, “Ah, good year!”, what ever the heck that means (everything I have ever tried has tasted like failed vinegar to me. lol)

    • January 12, 2014 at 11:39 am —

      Haha re the vinegar joke! Are you referring to blends, or blending different vintages? Both happen, to improve a wine or to make an inexpensive blend, which usually sells well. Blending your best barrels to make just the right combination takes a lot of expertise and those blends can cost more, but blending inexpensive fruit from multiple large vineyards can result in an inexpensive, and often appealing, wine.

    • January 12, 2014 at 9:53 pm —

      I agree about all of it tasting like failed vinegar, I feel the same, particularly about dry wines. Especially champagne, which to me is carbonated vinegar and I have no interest in drinking it.

      I find wine and winemaking fascinating, but I can’t abide tannins and need a fairly high sugar level. (Probably something to do with being a supertaster, I can’t drink beer of coffee either.) The few I’ve liked are often the ones that I see dismissed as “Kool-Aid” by the serious wine drinkers. All in all, I’d rather drink the grape juice before it ferments. I’d love to see different bottlings of that, I’m sure it would be fascinating, but there’s probably not enough of a market to be worth producing it.

  2. January 12, 2014 at 11:33 am —

    I’ve had really good $9 Bordeauxs and Pinot Noirs, and I’ve had $50 Pinot Noir’s. Plus I’ve had this FANTASTIC Chilean wine – Casillero Diablo that was cheap but well worth it.

    I tend to think the pricing isn’t too bad at anywhere from $6 to $12 a bottle. And of course one can always do a run up to Foxboro Trader Joe’s and stock the hell up.

    But I have admit there are some wines I completely abhor. Yellow Tail being on of them. Friends addicted to it, I buy them wines we like and introduce them to better wines that are of the same basic price point. Some do, some don’t. But I’ve accomplished my mission.

    I also tend to use a lot of wine when I cook. Any red variant works well for beef and sometimes pork. Chicken and fish usually get a Chardonnay or like.

    • January 12, 2014 at 11:44 am —

      Yeah, I’ve had some good sub-$10 pinot, too, usually from Chile or Argentina. They’re not impossible to find, you just have to do a little more digging, but for many people that’s part of the fun. I love Casillero del Diablo! A great value; their carmenere is a go-to for me.

      Yellow Tail inspires a lot of strong feelings. I don’t drink it because it’s a little too much for me, alcohol and fruit-wise, but I know it’s popular and I generally bring things like Casillero and MAN Vintners (a great value South African brand) to parties. Oftentimes, people prefer them. Sometimes they don’t, and that’s cool––more for me! :D

      Oh man, cooking with wine is my favorite. I go white wine in risotto, a little in glass, more in risotto, rest in glass, enjoy. If I’m home on a Friday night, give me a bottle of wine and a brick of cheese and I’ll eventually forget what I’m supposed to be cooking.

      • January 12, 2014 at 2:46 pm —

        I want to come over to your place on a Friday night, then.

        I loved this article, Julia! Currently my favorite wine is a very reasonably priced Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. It’s so delicious that the first time I had it, I wanted to snatch the bottle away and run off to drink it all by myself. And the worst wine I’ve ever had was the dullest, most boring Syrah ever at a fancy wine bar. I love Syrahs but damn, they are actually supposed to taste like something.

        • January 13, 2014 at 8:18 am —

          Haha, anytime you’re in my neck of the woods! Kiwi wine is delicious and usually an excellent value; I love me a zippy sauvignon blanc with a cheese plate or some seafood.

          That wine bar syrah sounds like it might have been corked. Sometimes corked wines don’t have the telltale “basement” flavor, they’re just lackluster. Incredibly sad, and one of the big strikes against cork closures (my closure post WILL BE RANTY).

    • January 12, 2014 at 6:04 pm —

      Pretty much every Yellow Tail I have had was too pungent and bitter for me, until I bought a giant bottle of Shiraz-Cab blend for cooking and ended up drinking most of the bottle. I don’t know if that says more about me than it does the wine, lol.

      • January 13, 2014 at 8:20 am —

        Haha! Situations and moods can affect how much you like a wine; maybe you just needed a drink! That’s also probably their “juiciest” flavor, that and the cab-merlot.

  3. January 12, 2014 at 5:45 pm —

    Julia, what a great post. I think you have touched on some of the important factors such as scarcity and prestige which go to make some wines a collector’s item. Once you get into that territory, a whole lot of different rules seem to apply and not all of them make sense to me or to any other average Joe or Jill. It seems to be a bit like possessing the One Ring.

    • January 13, 2014 at 8:22 am —

      Great way of putting it. So many of the wine “rules” are totally irrelevant to people without a major baseline of wine knowledge––or totally wrong, once you start delving more deeply into the wines of the world––and many people often, and understandably, throw the baby out with the bathwater and assume the whole thing is a sham.

  4. January 13, 2014 at 1:14 am —

    Thanks so much for doing this series! I love wine but unfortunately the state liquor store where I live has a kind of dire selection (not to mention a straight per-bottle excise tax makes an $8 wine cost $15 here), and private importation is basically impossible so I don’t get to indulge myself that often.

    I used to be friends with the owners of a big wine store when I lived in Italy, though, and I learned a lot about (mainly Italian) wine from them and from sampling around. I mainly developed a taste lighter reds: pinot noir, dolcetto, grignolino, Beaujolais, Chinon, often Douro. This always annoyed my dad when I got to pick the wine, since his taste was more along the lines of oaky high-alcohol California cabernets. I’m a lot more open with whites as long as they aren’t super-oaky and don’t have that weird-but-undefinable taste that low-quality whites often do. What do you call that flavour? It really is distinct.

    When it is /really/ hot out I have been known to drop some ice in a tumbler of dry rosé >.<

    • January 13, 2014 at 8:28 am —

      Hmmm, a lot of inexpensive white wine is chardonnay, which can be really buttery in addition to being really oaky; perhaps that’s what you’re tasting? Or, is it a tongue-puckering acidity? Sometimes cheap whites are overly acidified and taste totally disjointed. Or, they have more sugar than you like, if it’s riesling, or cheap pinot grigio often just tastes like water that you’ve added fruit juice to to make it more appealing. Hard to say, but those are some of the low-quality white wine traits I’ve encountered.

      Sounds like you’d enjoy New York State reds. If you get a chance to try a cabernet franc, merlot, or pinot noir from New York or Niagara County in Canada, go for it! These delicate, lively, food-friendly reds, when good, are very similar to the wines you mentioned. And if you’re ever in the Midwest let’s drink Chinon together. It’s my spirit animal.

      Don’t worry about dropping ice in wine. Robert Mondavi supposedly did it with his cabernets. It does alter the drink, but hey, so does mixology.

      • January 13, 2014 at 9:50 pm —

        Unfortunately you can’t buy Ontario wines in Québec for (ahem) some totally mysterious reason. I’m sort of doubtful about NY wines too; they seem to limit US imports to the big California brands. I’ll look next time I’m over either border!

        My justification for the iced rosé is that I learned it in a café in Avignon where literally everyone was doing it (since it was about 100F that day), and I’ve never looked back.

        • January 14, 2014 at 9:03 am —

          Interesting! What’s the wine scene like in Quebec? I know there are wineries there but haven’t made a trip.

          If you’re able to visit New York, definitely explore both the Finger Lakes region and the Niagara region. Alternatively, if it’s easier or closer from where you are, the Long Island wine industry is a wonderful hangout.

          My first iced wine experience: South Africa, February, 40 degrees C. Ice in sauvignon blanc. Fabulous.

  5. January 13, 2014 at 4:16 pm —

    The cost of making a bottle of wine- is about $7 – almost everywhere – the rest, well, that is packaging. This from the great Italian winemaker, and NY restauranteur Joe Bastianich (his partner is Mario Batali in the restaurant side). Bastianich makes some great wines, by the way.
    I have specific tastes for wine- I don’t like Pinot Noir’s that taste like cherry cough syrup (most central California wines). Oregon Pinot’s taste a lot the same, and I have to be careful of which ones I prefer (Ken Wright can do no wrong). I don’t like sweet in Cabs, and that is the flavor of most American’s taste – I prefer the more subtle ones from Washington State – like Leonnetti. . I dislike “buttery” or “oaky” chardonnay, and find I like those that taste more like the soil – such as the ones from St. Lucien Highlands in the US or Montrachat in France. But that is me- what I like, and have found wines that fit my profile.
    Going for points, or medals, or reviews are silly unless you have the same flavor profile as others. When a wine steward tells me a wine is fruit forward I vomit in my mouth, because it usually means they don’t know what they are talking about, or the wine will be sickly sweet for my taste. What I appreciate when eating out is the sommelier asking what I like, and examples, and providing some new wines to experience.
    My dad, who liberated some of the great wines of Europe from the Nazi’s in WW 2 – probably tasted wines I could only dream of, and yet he likes a white Zinfandel with an ice cube.
    Find the tastes you like- profile them- learn them, and experiment.
    I’ve had Romanee-Conti – it was lovely, but the 1991 Chateau Margeaux was much more to my liking (neither are great fits for a wallet).
    Great article and comments

    • January 14, 2014 at 9:15 am —

      Haha, I love that quote––I’m a big Bastianich fan. Of course, the tongue-in-cheek part of this quote is that “packaging” encompasses quite a bit. That does remind me that I didn’t mention liquor authority and labeling fees, which can be very expensive. It’s hard to separate the cost of the bottle itself from the winery and personnel maintenance that it requires :)

      I tell customers and friends the same thing about wine reviewers, and wine point scoring will get a post in this series. Also, you made me drool with the Montrachet mention. I love a delicate, balanced chardonnay. Niagara County is actually great for that style.

      I bet your dad could tell some amazing wine stories! I’d love to interview him sometime.

  6. January 13, 2014 at 10:19 pm —

    I’m already looking forward to the next installment of this series! I’ve only just recently started to venture into wine, so I greatly appreciate all the great info in this post! I grew up in Washington State when the wine industry there was just getting started, so it’s been fun to see how big a presence they have become.

    • January 14, 2014 at 9:16 am —

      Thanks for reading! I love Washington wine. I might even be coerced to cheat on New York and drink a Washington riesling on occasion :)

      • January 14, 2014 at 10:29 am —

        I think a Chateau St. Michelle Riesling was probably the first wine I ever drank. Brings back some good memories! Sometime in the late Fall of 1984, in a dormitory in Walla Walla, Washington…

  7. January 13, 2014 at 10:40 pm —

    Speaking of iced wine, this is one light red blend that I used to love back in my “alcoholic” days – a bottle of that, ice cold at the end of a work day would totally change my perspective!
    http://itsfood.wordpress.com/2008/04/09/good-wine-brown-brothers-tarrango-2006/
    (shameless plug for Aus product there!)
    But seeing as its 44 degrees C here now and the same for the rest of the week I may have a little relapse…

    • January 14, 2014 at 4:01 am —

      But don’t you know Global Warming was proved to be a librull hoax last week because the temp was 3°F (-16°C) Wednesday? (Of course, that was sandwiched between 58°F (+14°C) on Monday and 59°F (+15°C) on Saturday, and it’s 48°F (+9°C) right now, at 4AM on Tuesday.)

      • January 14, 2014 at 8:27 am —

        Yeah, tell me about it! I’ve been following the antics of the AGW deniers over the Chris Turney Antarctic expedition.
        The unholy alliance between them and Andrew Rivkin is horrible to watch. Check out the #spiritofmawson hashtag.

        Of course, most of them can’t tell the difference between weather and climate, but the less they know, the more they have to say. It’s the same creepy feeling you get with young earth creationists – logic and reason have no traction at all. But I guess were are OT here!

        • January 14, 2014 at 9:18 am —

          Climate change deniers will make no friends among viticulurists. I would actually really like to do a post on how it affects the wine industry. SPOILER ALERT: A lot.

        • January 14, 2014 at 4:31 pm —

          We hit 48.8888889° Celsius (lol thanks Google) in Phoenix last summer and I have a feeling we may do it again. :(

          Of course, it was much hotter in my home town. By a lot. HEH.

          But I always crave beer — maybe a nice heff — and not wine, when it’s super hot out. And cold rivers.

          • January 14, 2014 at 9:00 pm

            I always think of you in Phoenix when it gets hot here! It’s kind of reasuring in a way, knowing that you are probably cool at the time.
            Actually my latest go to drink in the heat is Perry – pear cider. Brilliant with Indian food!

    • January 14, 2014 at 9:17 am —

      I learned in South Africa that over 40 degrees C, I don’t even want to know what it is Fahrenheit. Here’s to cold beverages!

  8. January 15, 2014 at 12:16 am —

    As it happens, the local skeptics in Phoenix are hatching…er planning a study of wine tasting with an experimental method and specific hypotheses to be determined.

    Any high rollers wishing to finance something other than Trader Joe’s specials (my faves, by the way) are welcome to help out with expertise or simoleans (as long as they’re not fruit-forward or “reminiscient of toasty almonds with plum notes”.

  9. January 22, 2014 at 1:34 pm —

    I quit smoking last June. My senses of taste and smell have obviously changed. I can no longer tolerate most merlots, and, sadly, a great many Bordeaux blends. Then you have several of the better-known Tuscans, which can be quite presumptuous and aggressive at cocktail hour, drunk without accompaniment — but once you add a bit of prosciutto and asiago or pecorino romano to the experience, the flavors explode in a GOOD way. So it’s easy to dismiss certain varietals and regions when tasted in one context, which might have been quite pleasant in another. And smoking is a huge issue — seriously, I now taste burning tires at the finish of half the wines I try!

  10. January 24, 2014 at 1:15 pm —

    One of the ironies of wine in France, where GMOs have such bad press, is that grapes for wine are all grown on “Frankenstein-type” organisms, one plant grafted onto another type of root stock. Wine is the real “franken-food”.

    My brother works at a winery in upstate NY, in the Finger lakes region.

Leave a reply