The Caveman’s Wine Blog 2009-02-15 17:13:00

This post is by from The Caveman's Wine Blog

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Can’t hold the sulphites?

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding organics and wine, and especially about the role of sulphites in organic wine. But why are they there? Are they dangerous? If so, for whom? And if they are necessary, then what are acceptable levels?

Sulphites refer to the family of sulphur-based compounds – those most commonly used in winemaking being the gas, sulphur dioxide (SO2), and the powder, potassium metabisulphite. Sulphites are naturally produced by many organisms and found in such food items as grapes, oranges and chicken eggs. They are even produced by our own bodies, close to a gram per day.

Because of their antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, they are used as preservatives for a number of foods, including dried fruit, shrimp, fruit juice, potato chips and a variety of fresh vegetables. Ultimately, they keep our foods fresh-looking and give them a longer shelf life. And wine is no different.

How sulphites get in your wine

All wines contain sulphites. They are a naturally occurring by-product of the fermentation of grape sugars by yeasts. The amount is minimal, generally under 10 mg/L, but that means a sulphite-free wine does not exist. But adding extra sulphite has become an accepted and, for most, a necessary part of modern winemaking’s battle against the two enemies of wine: bacteria and excessive oxygen.

They are used to clean winemaking equipment, like barrels, which assures that spoilage bacteria like brettanomyces do not become a problem in the winery. They are added directly to the uncrushed grapes as they come in from the field, which helps prevent unwanted wild yeast strains and other bacteria from taking control.

During fermentation, some winemakers will add sulphur to protect the future wine from contact with oxygen. Because it is a yeast killer, it is sometimes added to stop a fermentation if the winemaker wants to leave some residual sugar in the wine, as with German Rieslings. Perhaps the most significant addition happens at bottling, where a final dose of SO2 is added to protect the wines while they are being shipped around the world. Even more importantly for wines that are to be cellared, sulphite additions are used to prevent oxidation, assuring that the wines will reward those who stash their bottles away.

Free and combined

One of the peculiarities of sulphites is that they are constantly being ingested by the wine, reacting with oxygen and other chemical elements. These are referred to as “combined” sulphites. Once ingested, they have little or no preservative effect on the wine.

Free sulphites are the uncombined sulphur compounds that remain in the wine and protect it from oxidation and other potential problems, such as an unwanted fermentation that can result from the combination of having live yeasts and residual sugars in the wine, and storing the wine at too high a temperature (above 14C).

I remember a case of vouvray I bought a couple of years back that had no added SO2. When I bought it, it was demi-sec, meaning that it had some residual sugar in it. During the winter, when my cellar temperature hovers around 10C, the bottles were fantastic. But as summer arrived and the temperature rose in my cellar, because the wines still contained live yeasts, my wine started fermenting. The result? My slightly sweet white transformed itself into a dry bubbly. It was still okay, but not what I paid for.

Sulphites and your health

I spent the better part of a week looking at whom, in fact, the “contains sulphites” warning is for. Not very many of us, apparently. Studies seem to point to two groups: people who suffer from sulphite oxidase deficiency (under one per cent of the population) and asthmatics. In the case of asthmatics, reactions only seem to occur when sulphites are near the maximum allowable levels (over 300 mg/L). There is little evidence that they are bad for the rest of us.

What about the classic “red wine headache” after an evening of revelry? Sulphites are usually blamed, but red wines usually have the least amount of sulphites, because they already contain natural antioxidants that come from the skins and the branches of the grapes. White wines and rosés, which aren’t macerated with the grape skins, require more. Sweet wines have the most, because the SO2 combines so readily with the sugar. It seems that headache comes from other elements of a red wine – perhaps histamines.

In the European Union, the maximum sulphite level for red wine is 160 mg/L. The limit for whites and rosés is 210 mg/L, and for sweet wines it’s 400 mg/L. In the U.S. and Canada, the maximum level is set at 350 mg/L. While organic certification agencies are specific to grape growing, certain agencies (like the biodynamic certification agency Demeter) do impose limits on the maximum amount of sulphites allowed in wines made with biodynamic grapes, which is usually half of “conventional wines.”

When I asked the SAQ laboratory about its policy on sulphite levels, the response was that while they check to assure a wine is under the maximum allowable levels, they don’t have a specific amount that they want to see in a wine. If they judge it necessary, however, they will ask winemakers to increase sulphite levels. Their primary concern, like most retailers, is shelf life. This means that many of our wines probably contain more sulphites than necessary. I have talked with a couple of organic winemakers who add extra SO2 to satisfy their export markets, even though they feel their wine doesn’t need it.

So why hold the sulphites?

If the health issue is not very important, why even be concerned about sulphite levels? My concern is a qualitative issue. Sulphur dioxide smells like a freshly struck match. Studies show that most people can detect the odour at over 40 mg/L, though some sensitive noses can detect it at lesser levels.

Marcel Lapierre, Beaujolais winemaker and one of the gurus of “natural winemaking” (wines without added sulphur), told me that sulphur alters the aromatics of his wine. I would concur. I drink lots of these wines, and they have a purity of fruit in their bouquet that one does not find in more conventionally made wines. I know many wine makers who only add at bottling as they believe that earlier sulphite additions have a negative effect on the fermentation process, again , especially for the aromatics.

On the other hand, I have had a number of these wines that went the route of my vouvray. While certain winemakers have theories as to how to almost completely reduce the need for sulphites, I am happy with those who try to use the minimum.

Back to being bitter about modern wines next article.

Valentine’s Day Fun

Looking for something to do on Valentine’s Day today? Breaux is doing their Chocolate and Cabernet tasting both Saturday and Sunday, tickets are $20. Barrel Oak will be rocking the winery with their Chocolate Lab and Sparkling Spanish wines served with homemade chocolate and live music. Entrance to the loft is $45. Philip Carter Winery will be pairing their wines with chocolate from

The Caveman’s Wine Blog 2009-02-13 06:53:00

This post is by from The Caveman's Wine Blog

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My Sweet Clemence-wine

Devoté of Michel Rolland, Dauriac’s Clemence has garnered a reputation as one of the better ‘new’ properties in Pomerol. I love to hate what Rolland does, and usually I find good reason to do so. Not so for the 2003 and 2006.

Pomerol 2003, Château La Clemence
Dark, ripe plums, slightly sweet, hint of licorice, with fresh vanilla bean. For such a hot vintage, where so many wines were excessively tannic, Michel Rolland’s strategy of micro-ox seems to have worked- the tannins are firm, but round and mouth coating. Wonderfully complex, though very much on the fruit rather than the earthier notes, you really don’t want it to stop. Sure, lots of oak, but there is enough substance to handle it.

Pomerol 2004, Château La Clemence
Goopy, sticky, sweet fruit. Lacking acidity. Not lacking oak. Very forced. Many people did a great job in 2004, not here.

Pomerol 2005, Château La Clemence
Very chocolaty, which at first sip reminded me of Nestle’s Quick. But with a few swirls of the glass, it opens up, with expresso, licorice and some sweet fruit, and stifling oak. Not the most comfortable wine to have in your mouth except for the cool menthol finish. Interesting, though not particularly fun to drink, at least for the moment.

Pomerol 2006, Château La Clemence

Good, though very young, modern Bordeaux. A refreshing acidity, just a hint of chocolate, and very intense red fruit. The sweetness here is infers a perfect ripeness rather than excessive hangtime. While it is still oak-laden, it seems to have a better balance than the 2005. I have more hope for this in the long run than the 2005, despite the reputation of the 2005 vintage.

Rioja ephiphany

This post is by from Sharon's Wine Blog

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Crazy ideas need a crazy followup. One such crazy idea was hatched on a recent evening when a friend of mine suggested preparing fish with mushrooms. Fish with mushrooms? Every rustic bourgeois Frenchwoman deep within my soul turned in her rustic French grave. (Please, just go with the image.) So what better wine to pour alongside a papillotte of monkfish with black chanterelles, minced Serrano ham and shallots than, of course, an aged red Rioja?


I was skeptical. But with the perfect uncloudedness of hindsight, I see that that was an inspired choice. And not just the pairing: the wine. Oh, the wine! This was one of those wines that make you realize why you spend 2/3 of your waking time* thinking, reading and writing about wine, as well as drinking it.

1985 López de Heredia Viña Tondonia – a gorgeous nose of strawberry and underbrush immediately grabbed my attention. I had in my glass that magical thing, a wine you want to coddle and sniff for a long while before even sipping it. Such glorious aromatics. At last, though, I struck out to discover if it was going to be an interesting sip, to boot. Zounds. On the palate, it was even better than what its heady scents promised. Such death-defying complexity! Waves of silky, elegant fruit and earthiness, with a sudden twist of sap and bark right in the middle, and then playing out forever, until I was wide-eyed and shaking my head. Wow.

And, some time later, as the level of the wine in the decanter got dangerously low, I savored its last sips in their full bloom, along with the utterly nosh-worthy monkfish decked out in minced black mushrooms.

Not so crazy, it turns out. Just insanely good.

*Depending on the day.

Veritas Vineyard & Winery: Barrels of Red & White Delights!

This post is by from My Vine Spot

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Hello Friends,

This past weekend I saddled up with a motley collection of industry professionals, budding wine enthusiasts, and those darn wine bloggers to take a great-grape ride on the Monticello wine trail. Good and bad news here, friends. Bad news first – of the 23 wineries on the Monticello wine trial we made appointments to visit only six of them. The good news – we have seventeen left to go, so Monticello wine trail, look out, you will see us again! Our first stop of the day was to Veritas Vineyard and Winery.

Veritas Vineyard & Winery

Veritas Vineyard and Winery is located in Afton, Virginia, and situated amidst beautiful surroundings at the foot of the wondrous Blue Ridge Mountains. Veritas is a family-run operation owned by Andrew and Patricia Hodson, who opened for business in June of 2002. Their daughter Emily, who recently won the Judges Choice Award in a national competition, shares the winemaking duties with her father. Let’s step into the tasting room, shall we?

Tasting Bar

The Veritas tasting room is beautifully designed, exuding elegance and luxury in a relaxing atmosphere. Tall ceilings, wooden floors, comfortable leather sofas and chairs, eating areas, a large fireplace, and a long tasting bar are some of the niceties offered to make your wine tasting experience and visit enjoyable. A trained and knowledgeable staff is on hand to answer any of your questions and to tell you all about Veritas Vineyard’s full spectrum of red and white wine selections.

Tasting Room

We were greeted upon arrival by winemaker Emily Pelton and in-house sommelier Thomas Roberts. We were all led down to the barrel room to sample some of Emily’s developing wines. Barrel tasting is both enjoyable and enlightening, and is an excellent way to gauge where the ine is in its maturation process.

Barrel Tasting with Emily Pelton and Thomas Roberts

The following brief notes are from several of the barrel samples I thoroughly enjoyed. Although these wines are in their developmental stage, they reflect the care that went into them in the vineyard and winery. Our tasting began with a beautiful Sauvignon Blanc, which I found to be very attractive. This is a variety that I believe could do well here, but I do not run across too many (varietal) examples during my travels. Of the few local examples I have tasted, this is clearly one of the best, in that it is a nice wine with very good varietal character. This example is more Loire Valley – (Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé) like than the New Zealand-style many Sauvignon Blanc drinkers have become accustomed to. This is a wine of delicacy, with clean, fresh fruit, good acidity, and a smidgen of grassiness for added complexity. This wine is meant to be consumed young, so don’t be shy, pop the cork and enjoy upon release!

Tasting a little bubbly with winemaker Emily Pelton – Yum!

Also enjoyed were three barrel samples of Cabernet Franc from fruit harvested weeks apart. Time on the vine certainly makes a difference in flavor / aroma profile, as the first sample pulled displayed Cabernet Franc’s distinct violet and red berry aroma, while the second sample was more neutral, but had a fuller mouth feel. The third sample was more rounded and had desirable spice components and earthy nuances about it. Not sure what the final bottled result will be, but Emily has three good base wines to work with based on our tasting, and I look forward to the release of the 2008 Cabernet Franc wine(s).

We are smiling because we had a GREAT TIME at Veritas!

Another high quality red wine grape variety we enjoyed that is also generating a lot of excitement among Virginia wine lovers is Petit Verdot. This is a grape grown mainly in France’s Bordeaux region that is finding its legs here, so to speak. The sample we tasted displayed a gorgeous deep rich color and a pleasant fragrant and spicy character with good definition and structure. Not sure if this will be made into a varietal wine or not, but it sure would be nice if it is.

Barrels of fun (Yes, I mean that, literally)

Last but not least is the sweet ending. Veritas has a popular dessert selection named Othello, which is a blend of Tannat and Touriga Nacional. We had the opportunity to taste each wine on its own prior to blend, and it became quite apparent why they marry so well. One is rich and lush and full of boysenberry and blueberry flavors, yet teetering on the sweetness line of being cloying. The other has less flavor intensity, but more acidity, highlighted by baked fruit flavor components and pinches of cinnamon. Blended, I can see these two wines combining to create a hedonistic pleasure.

Enjoy wine and beautiful views

In closing, and I think I speak for the tasting group, we would like to thank Emily and Thomas for the enlightment, education, great wine, and good times. Every nose and palate in our tasting group unanimously agreed that Veritas Vineyard’s future releases are on their way to being solid Virginia wines. Congratulations on your 2008 vintage, Emily!

Info: Veritas Vineyard & Winery, 145 Saddleback Farm. Afton, Virginia 22920. 540.456.8000

Stay tuned friends …Look for short summaries on other visits from our fun-filled weekend on the Monticello Wine Trail. Also, check out my previous visit to Veritas Vineyard here. And, be sure to see what Todd of Wine Compass has to say about the Monticello Wine Trail – CLICK HERE.

Click Here to vote VA Vine Spot as your favorite wine blog – You can vote 1x per day!

Happy Sipping Friends – Tell your friends about the blog and thanks for your support and kind emails !


Dezel’s Virginia Vine Spot © 2006-2009. All rights reserved.

Wine Language

Wine Language

It’s a funny old thing critiquing wines, the physical action of swirling, sniffing and slurping and the wine language we take for granted. Although I gain immeasurable pleasure from tasting wine, selling wine and talking about wine many of my friends dismiss the pastime as a load of old cobblers. “People drink wine to get hammered”, “Yes, I will tell you what it smells of, it smells of wine” its amazing how defensive people get about the idea of critiquing wine.

Last night I went over to a friends house who happens to be a lecturer at one of the Universities here in London whose “chosen subject for 20” is communication and language. Quite by accident we got into a tasting and discussion about the language of wine and the difficulties and challenges that face people new to the wine world. You can’t tell me a wine smells like a banana had you never tried one. It’s hard to pick out the nuances of a wines aroma past that “wine” smell without the confidence to express yourself. There are so many factors in play for those new to wine that it was interesting to remember what it was like when wine was for me too, what posh people banged on about.

Even more interesting is the fact that my friend, although not using the language I’ve picked up through being involved in wine, Wset and the biz, managed to accurately describe what was going on with the two very different wines we tasted. It’s quite rare to find such a fresh test subject, my friend is in her early 40s but has terrible reactions to wine so simply doesn’t drink it. She had no idea about varietals, regions, vinification techniques yet, what she managed to describe about the wine, after the initial “performance anxiety” would have been enough for us wine nuts to have a good stab at which wine she was drinking, right down to appellation and grape.

There is a movement at the moment, us bloggers being a part of that, to try to demystify wine and sand down the edges of this reputation of being a recreation of the rich. I know many people who read this blog may not know all that much about wine but everyone still has a palate (baring birth defects and terrible accidents) and I encourage everyone to make tasting notes about their wines. After all, you paid good money for your wine experience whether that was down at Tesco or a specialized wine store. It amazes me that people will continue to buy the same old wines and not experiment with anything new. We don’t do it with food, I think we all like a variance in our diets and enjoy trying new cuisine. We trust that we do like a McDonalds Quarterpounder but not the Filet-o-fish and no one will sass you for expressing that opinion.

So for a change, here is the “tasting note” my friend made. None the less valid, and she knows, that if she ever gets over her negative physical reaction to wine, or has to buy wine for a friend, she’ll opt for the Californian Syrah over the Gamay Morgon Beaujolais.

Domaine Maurice Gaget Morgon Cote de PyPASS – €14
Well, its red but my bulbs have a red-ish tint, the lights in here are not really good for this kind of thing. Ok, ok, dark red. Hmmm, smells like a swimming pool, chlorine, it smells cold and alcoholic, I’m not really getting any smells of grapes or any fruits really. Its really quite thin isn’t it, and really acidic and sour. I didn’t really get any of those tannins things you were talking about on this one or a finish. I don’t like it

From this description, no tannins, acidic but red, “cold” you’d be guessing at a colder climate, thin graped wine. The being “dark” might throw you, but we can take this as just an indication of youth.

Bonny Doon Syrah Le PousseurBUY – €14
This is a darker red, looks much thicker. Smells richer than the other wine, I’m still not sure of much on the smell. Its far more tannic though, the wine is heavier and dries my mouth out more, much more depth and I can taste Blackberries, lingers longer once you’ve finished the wine. I do like it

And we’d be making a guess at a thicker skinned grape and warmer climate.

Whats the point in this Newton?! The point is, even if you know nothing about wine, you know what you like and what you don’t and that is good enough. You don’t have to publish tasting notes but keeping a record is a great way to stop you buying the same bottle of tosh a month later. You will begin to understand what regions/grapes you DO like and hence, waste less money on bad wine purchases. People buy which magazine because informed purchases are important, you don’t repeatedly buy fruits and veg you don’t care for; your palate is your own. Keep tasting notes, not only does it make financial sense it will open up a whole new world of pleasure and education.

Leave a Comment
Do you experience reverse wine snobbery? Or are you intimidated by wine and it’s language. If you frequently publish notes, share your first ones they are often highly entertaining. C’mon embarrass yourself! :p

The Caveman’s Wine Blog 2009-02-11 04:21:00

This post is by from The Caveman's Wine Blog

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The Science of Smell

Dear Caveman:
When I read your wine descriptions, I find intriguing expressions such as: “Smells like a Mediterranean-style vegetarian pizza. Sun-dried tomatoes, black olives and herbs, with a touch of cherry vanilla.” Where do these aromas come from? If they are actually the by-product of fermentation of crushed grapes in an oak barrel, then aren’t these conclusions about “sun-dried tomatoes, black olives and herbs, with a touch of cherry vanilla” socially constructed and ultimately subjective?

The short answer is that while the naming of these aromas may be subjective – in that each of us has our own “aroma and taste memory” and thus associates certain aromas with different things – there is a scientific explanation as to how a wine made only with grapes can evoke such un-grapey smells.

The sources of many of these aromas are volatile aromatic compounds. Some come from the grapes themselves or are by-products of the fermentation of the grape’s juice. But the ones that Ricardo was referring to are results of the aging of the wine, both in an oak barrel and in a bottle. This is still an area of wine that is not completely understood, but research is happening on a number of different fronts, so here is the science.

Aroma vs. bouquet

Émile Peynaud, a French oenologist considered by many to be the father of modern winemaking, drew a distinction between aroma and bouquet. For Peynaud, “aroma” is used to describe what we smell in a young wine – those grapey and fruitier aromas that result from the pressing of the grapes and the fermentation of the grapes’ sugars. If you have ever been in a room where a wine is fermenting, you will never forget the smell – ripe, juicy fruit mixed with a blend of alcohol and yeast. Open any bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau and you will have a good idea of what I am talking about.

Peynaud said “bouquet” is the result of aging a wine, which is where many of these non-grapey aromas can result. While the subtle chemical interactions are not completely understood, these new odours result from the interaction between those primary aromatic compounds and outside influences like oak barrels and oxygen.

It starts with the grape

So everything starts with those primary aromas, and thus the grapes you bring in from the field. The Chinon referred to by Ricardo evoked sun-dried tomatoes, black olives and herbs. I took a look at some other reviews I had done of wines made with the same cabernet franc grape, and I found one that described the wine (Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgeuil 2005, Les Mauguerets-La Contrie) as smelling of “green peppers and violets … (and) a mix of raspberry and charcoal.” Why the difference?

Two University of British Columbia researchers, Steven Lund and Joerg Bohlmann, recently published a study that examined how a number of different factors affect primary aromas. They refer to the assortment of chemical compounds that cause aromas as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). How and where a grape is grown will ultimately affect the degree to which these grapes will show such things as varietal character as well as “the dozens to hundreds of chemical compounds that have yet to be discovered and characterized.”

So the same grape grown in different soils, in different years, will smell different. And the amount and proportion of these compounds to one another will ultimately affect the bouquet as a wine ages.

The molecules of scent

Lund and Bohlmann have broken down a wine’s aromatics into component compounds. So if your Gewürztraminer smells of flowers, it is in part due to “monoterpene compounds, chiefly geraniol and citronellol.” And if your Sauvignon Blanc tastes slightly grassy, the compound is part of the “methoxypyrazine family, specifically 2-methoxy-3-isobutylpyrazine,” which develops during the green stages of the grape but gets metabolized as the grape ripens. If your Sancerre tastes like freshly cut grass and your white Bordeaux doesn’t, although they are both made with Sauvignon Blanc, that is because the Bordeaux is often riper, so it will have less 2-methoxy-3-isobutylpyrazine.

How about black pepper in Shiraz? Rotundone is the chemical compound responsible for that one. A study done by the Australian Wine Research Institute of different vineyards in Australia showed that shiraz grapes showed different levels of this compound depending on the clones used, soil types and climate.

And what about the sun-dried tomatoes in my Chinon? According to Jamie Goode, “cis-3-hexenol is the prime culprit,” although cabernet franc also has the same leafy 2-methoxy-3-isobutylpyrazine as the Sauvignon Blanc I mentioned.


So as a wine matures and its bouquet develops, much like great cuisine, its odour becomes the sum of its component parts. Many of these VOCs are in a sense dormant when the wine is young. As VOCs react with one another, as well as with oxygen and alcohol, they will begin to show themselves.

A good example of this is oak. In a young, freshly bottled wine, the oak is often very pronounced, and in fact the wine has a distinct smell of wood. But as the wine ages, the vanillin – which is an oak-derived VOC and part of the family of aldehydes – will react with oxygen to give an odour of vanilla. Oak barrels are also a source of many of the cooking spices we find in wines, like cinnamon, coriander and nutmeg. Every barrel, depending on the wood source, will offer a different aromatic cocktail to the wine.

So this is why a grape can ultimately smell like “sun-dried tomatoes, black olives and herbs, with a touch of cherry vanilla.” But why doesn’t everyone smell that? Well, there is the cultural factor. If you have never smelled a sun-dried tomato, the name you give to such an aroma might differ. But there is also sensitivity: All noses are not created equal. Many VOCs are in such small concentrations that people with highly sensitive noses might pick up on elements that others miss.

But for the majority of us, it is simply a question of working our aromatic memories. Because wines can be complex, they often do not make us think of one particular aroma. This is why I sometimes will mention situations, like walking through a cool forest in the fall after a rain. How do you develop this memory? The first step is to load your memory with as many smells as possible.

So, as the proverb goes, stop and smell the roses – or the pizza, in my case.

Scary Monsters and the Maryland Direct Shipment Proposal

This post is by from Pinot Law

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

When I was a little kid growing up in New Jersey, I used to love watching the old Abbott and Costello movies that were run each Sunday morning on WPIX out of New York City. My all time favorite movie by this duo was “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.”  In the film, the hapless duo encounters three of cinema’s most terrifying monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolf Man.  Hilarity ensues.

Of course this begs the question, what do Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolf Man have to do with Maryland’s Direct Shipment proposal? Because just like Abbott and Costello, abbott.jpgMaryland’s Wholesalers will undoubtedly unleash their three scariest monsters onto the general public as the Maryland Legislature considers its direct shipment legislation. In no particular order, the wholesalers’ monsters are: 1) underage access to alcohol over the Internet; 2) organized crime; and 3) illegal shipments of wine by wineries.

In the days and weeks ahead, I would like to take each of these ‘monsters’ in turn and demonstrate that they are nothing more than scare tactics unleashed by Maryland Wholesalers on the general public. Let’s start with access to wine over the Internet by underage drinkers.

This is by far the favorite monster of the Wholesale lobby and the good folks over at Vinotrip are already on the case. Time and again Wholesalers testify before elected officials and tell the same scary story: direct shipment will allow underage kids to easily access wine over the Internet. As the story goes, kids will simply hop onto the Internet, order some wine through with their parent’s credit card and wait for it to show up at their door.

But just like any monster, this is a story that has no factual support. Indeed, the real monster lurking in the shadows is often the parents themselves. This is evidenced by a June 2008 study from the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The study provides a broad overview of the problem of underage drinking, but one chapter is relevant to our discussion.

Specifically, Chapter 4.3 of the report is dedicated entirely to how underage drinkers gain access to alcohol. The research is organized by age group (i.e., 12 – 14; 15 – 17; and 18 – 20) and mechanisms for alcohol procurement are identified for each (e.g., took from home, received from parent, etc.). Although HHS uses three separate bar charts in their table, I have consolidated their results into a single graph, which is contained below:


Although the chart identifies the numerous ways in which underage kids gain access to alcohol, noticeably absent is any mention whatsoever of the Internet. This is particularly striking since at the time the report was released, the Pew Internet & American Life Project released a report (Adobe Acrobat required) finding that 73% of respondents (about 147 million adults) were internet users, and the share of Americans who had broadband connections at home was 42% (about 84 million). In other words, the Internet was embedded in mainstream American life in 2006 when HHS was compiling its data.

Moreover, a quick look at the data reveals that in the overwhelming majority of instances, kids are getting alcohol through social contacts (e.g., their parents, guardians or someone’s home), not retail contacts.  In this regard, I thought it would help to aggregate these data sets into broader categories to see the results. My reconstructed chart is contained below:


Looking at the numbers in this way demonstrates that the vast majority of kids — between 81% and almost 90% — are clearly obtaining alcohol through non-Internet means. The monster is not the Internet, it is parents, guardians, adults and unlocked liquor cabinets. The only exceptions to this rule are the categories identified in the HHS chart as “Other” and in those instances where kids purchased the alcohol on their own. Taking each of these in turn, even the most basic research reveals that these other sources of alcohol cannot be placed at the Internet’s doorstep.

For example, the category identifying kids who purchase alcohol themselves illustrates that as kids get older, this acquisition method for alcohol increases. That makes logical sense: as kids get older, they look older, and their ability to purchase alcohol through use of fake IDs increases. And this logic is backed up by various reports and surveys, including this one from the Centers for Disease Control.

As far as the “Other” category goes, there is not much to say.  As a threshold matter it is a relatively smaller subset of the overall group.  In addition, it was likely included as a ‘catch-all’ for less prominent means of access (e.g., stole from a store, purchased at a sporting event, etc.).

The bottom line, wholesalers’ arguments about kids accessing alcohol through the Internet should be dismissed out of hand.  It is nothing more than a scary monster manufactured by their industry to try to scare the public and legislators.

Franz Haas Wines

Franz Haas Wines

Franz Haas, 10 points if you can guess which part of Italy this wine producer comes from? Those with any knowledge of Italian history or geography will be able to figure out that Franz Haas wines are from the German speaking south Tyrol/Alto Adige region of Italy bordering Austria. The Franz Haas estate is located almost exactly half way between Trento and Bolzano just off the E45. The Alto Adige has a growing reputation for excellence in both red and white wines with rising popularity in the the native Lagrein, as well as excellent production of international varietals like Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and even some zippy Pinot Neros.

Franz Haas produces eleven high quality red, white and blended wines at a fair price point which is why we’ve decided to add this producer at the Cellar Door. Perhaps not the most famous or prestigious producer, that accolade would go to the likes off Hoffstatter, Lageder or Manincor, Franz Haas represents QPR and joins Michael Eppan for our Trentino/Alto Adige range.

Of these eleven wines I believe the best value comes from the Pinot Nero (2 bottlings) the Traminer Aromatico (Gewürztraminer) and the superb blend, perhaps the best value white blend of the region, the Manna.

Manna, named after Franz Haas wife, Luisa (Manna, obviously) is a blend of Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon and late harvest Gewürztraminer. The wine shows telling minerality and is an award winning effort year on year with GR and a consistent 88-90 point wine. In the red corner, it is the Pinot Nero, both the standard bottling and the excellent Schweizer (produced only in the best vintages) that deserve your full quaffing attention.

The wines of Franz Haas
MüllerThurgau – €10 (white)
The lowest priced wine of the Franz Haas collection and the lowest calorie too! Those who follow my tweets will have already seen that if you’re on a diet MüllerThurgau is the wine for you. An excellent accompaniment to seafood. QPR Value – 3/5
Pinot Grigio – €12 (white)
High yields, high production and very popular. However, so many better whites here, if you’re a PG fan there’s probably little I can do to put you off. QPR Value 2/5

Pinot Bianco – €14 (white)
A similar production scale to the MT. Many of the Alto Adige wineries are putting out Pinot Bianco, the Haas version has good acidity and I’d pair it up with a salad or risotto. QPR Value 2/5

Traminer Arimatico – €18 (white)
This is a seriously good example of what can be done with Gewürztraminer. The yields here are smaller than the other whites, this is a bottling of which the producer is rightfully proud I highly recommend you try this full bodied and aromatically interesting wine. QPR Value 4/5
Manna – €22 (white)
Here she is! The white you really want to try from Franz Haas, the blended little blighter, created out of love especially for fans of the Alto Adige. This is a 4 grape blended white that will set you drooling. It’s a great food pairing wine for vegetarian dishes too. Complex, good structure and with ageing capabilities. One of Italy’s best value white wines. QPR Value 5/5
Moscato Rossa – €22 – (rose)
Indigenous Moscato Rossa is expensive for Italian rose but this is because of the very low yields (real low, 15 hectolitres p/h low). This Moscato Rossa is one of the regions best Rose wines in top vintages. If you find food pairings for oriental food tricky, this one works beautifully. QPR Value 3/5
Lagrein – €17 (red)

The native Lagrein is an en-vogue Italian grape, gaining popularity quicker than retailers seem able to stock it. Not my personal favourite producer of Lagrein but a reliable and representative example. QPR Value 2/5

Pinot Nero – €22 (red)
Pinots from this part of Italy are very good value and the standard Pinot from Haas is 90-92 point effort year on year. Considering the Schweizer is €8 more and only splits a point or two with this version, its a judgement call for which you buy. The Schweizer is certainly riper and more tannic . QPR Value -4/5

Pinot Nero Schweizer – €30 (red)

The best single variety production at Franz Haas. The wine is velvety, aromatic and great with game dishes. This is a quality Alto Adige Pinot and taking into consideration Pinot Noir wines from around the world, very good value. QPR Value – 4/5

Istante – €25 (red)
Blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot this is another great blend from Haas. This is the “cult” wine of Haas with a small production of just 6000 bottles in some vintages. Ageing capabilities and a very good complete wine. Interesting. QPR Value – 4/5

Merlot – €19 (red)
This one is under-rated. The Pinot Nero steals the red wine thunder at Franz Haas but it might be this Merlot that actually represents the best value. An earthy 90 point Merlot from a producer of this quality under €20 is great deal. QPR Value – 4/5

So there you have it. The great value production of Franz Haas in a handy little pocket sized guide. Of course you’ll have to print it out and fold it for yourself, but you’re a resourceful bunch. Sadly, I didn’t get around to talking about what I really wanted to mention today, and that is why so many wine labels have dogs on them. I suppose there’s always tomorrow.

Leave a Comment
Franz Haas, do you rate these wines? Why are there so many dogs on wine labels and in wine names? Why not kittens or hamsters? It’s always great big dogs too, never Miniature Schnauzers. If I’m wrong, please link up some wine labels! Au Revoir.

The Caveman’s Wine Blog 2009-02-09 18:18:00

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Newer Franc

Chinon 2006, l’Huisserie
, Domaine Philippe Alliet
Next to Joguet’s Chene Vert is Alliet’s new baby
vineyard, filled with young vines. For you fans of Alliet, this is just plain weird- very ripe, sweet fruit, soft tannins, very little complexity, just fruit, fruit, fruit. But it works. This was not meant to be cellared, this is supposed to be guzzled. I would like to send a bottle of this to every fruit bombing winemaker. Don’t over extract young vines. New oak does not a great wine make. Stop putting lipstick on 12 year olds.

Anjou Villages 2005, Clos Médecin, Domaine de Brizé
Strawberry sorbet, cherries, with a pinch of green pepper, cilantro, maybe even some cabbage. Strange mix when you think about it. The ensemble finishes on a spicy, juicy, peppery note. Easy drinking wine. Serve slightly chilled. Goes well with Tatziki.

Chinon 2004, Vieilles Vignes, Clos de la Dioterie, Charles Joguet
It’s a summer meal in a glass, dessert and all. It’s a piece of meat, cooked blue, covered in red berries and tarragon. The fruit then gets redder and sweeter, with a lime-like freshness. Your espresso is there as well. I am sure one day this will all come together.

Sergio Mottura Grechetto Latour a Civitella

Sergio Mottura Grechetto Latour a Civitella

Sergio Mottura Grechetto Latour a Civitella is one of Italy’s best Grechetto wines but a little on the QT *taps nose* internationally. Within Italy the wine is well known, mostly because Mottura is one of only two Lazio producers to ever bag a Tre Bicchiere award with Gambero Rosso elevating the producer into the same strata as the mighty Falesco. Tellus more….. (get it? No? Ok moving on).

Grechetto is really not known as a grape producing great whites. This bottling comes from Northern Lazio (Civitella d’Angliano) and the grape is actually a Greek native that finds its best expression generally not in Lazio, but just over the border in Umbria in the Orvieto DOC. If you’ve tried Grechetto chances are you were actually drinking Orvieto DOC and whilst there are a couple of producers bringing out the best in Grechetto in Umbria, bizarely it is Mottura in his corner of Lazio scooping the awards. Grechetto Latour a Civitella is generally thought to be the finest expression of Grechetto in all of Italy.

Most Italian wines I feature that are without international press are hard for you guys to come by but Mottura will handle personal orders, even as small as a case of 6 wines and forward them to the UK, USA and mainland Europe meaning I do not have to complete that tiring “Where can I find this wine” section today 😀

Grechetto, and especially this bottle, have ageing capabilities and shows a completely different character with a further 10 or even just 5 years. Gambero Rosso even went as far to claim that with 10 years ageing this sub £20 bottle is one of Italy’s finest white wines. If you fancy trying this for yourself, which I’m sure you will after reading my review, then you can order direct from Mottura here and avoid those pesky retailers.

Sergio Mottura Grechetto Latour a Civitella 2004BUY – £15
Rich, deep golden colour and a real force on the nose. Tropical aromas of pineapple, even bananas and cream as well as a touch of pleasant oak. Fruity and balanced on the palate, rich and opulent with a smooth long finish. Beautiful wine and will improve – 92 Points

There’s a lot of BUY, BUY, BUY recently, but fear not, for those that like to see my wines bomb you’ll be pleased to know my BBR shipment arrived today and I’m sure at least half will be eye poppingly terrible. *crosses fingers*

No Buy section today as mentioned but please…..

Grechetto, ever tried it? Or even La Tour ever tried it?! Just say whatever you like, anything goes with me you know that by now. Cheery bye. x

Movie Review: Bottle Shock

This post is by from Building Wine Cellars by Joseph and Curtis

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

Filmed in the Napa and Sonoma valleys, “Bottle Shock” takes a romantic view of winemaking and the significance of that long-ago tasting in France (1976) where Chateau Montelena a small American winery bested the supreme French wines of the time and sent the wine industry on its head – putting California wines on the map for good. Based on a true story, Bottle Shock chronicles the events leading up to the famous ‘Judgment of Paris’ tastings, told through the lives of father and son, Jim and Bo Barrett.

A former real estate attorney, Jim sacrificed everything to realize his dream of creating the perfect hand-crafted chardonnay. His business, however, is struggling, and he’s not only trying to overcome differences with his stoner son, but is also fighting off the banks.

Meanwhile in Paris, unwitting British wine shop owner Steven Spurrier hopes to revive his own failing business by sponsoring a competition (blind tasting) which will pit the traditional French powerhouse against the California upstarts.

Little did Steven and Jim realize that they were both on course to change the history of wine forever. Bottle shock delivers something for everyone…romance, intrigue,patriotism, and of course WINE. Its amazing to see how hard it was for the California wine maker in 1976 struggling to make ends meat…and being thought of as “hicks”…and to see the powerhouse California wine makers have become in 25 years.

God Bless America!!

Buy Bottle Shock at Amazon

View a trailer on youtube.

The Caveman’s Wine Blog 2009-02-09 05:18:00

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Old Franc

Chinon 1996, Clos de l’Olive, Couly-Dutheil
Remarkably youthful. On opening it tries to say too much at once, having been bottled up for over a decade. But the aromatics were staggering from the first pour. Subtle bell pepper as a base, layers of spring flowers, comfrey, camomile, and on top of the pyramid, a sweet and perfectly ripe red cherry-plum. The mouth kicked in after an hour, when the wine attained something reasonably close to perfection. Drunk with ossobuco, with olives.

Chinon 2003, Theleme, Pascal et Alain Lorieux
After two hours in a carafe, this still has a remarkable vibrancy and youthful vigour. Those who believe cabernet franc cannot produce great wine (aside from Cheval Blanc) should decant a bottle of this, and revel in the sheer intensity and richness of the fruit – dark, serious, sanguine. The tannin is solid, and the acidity is just enough to maintain an exceptional freshness. Bordeaux lovers, take note: This is really good.


This post is by from Sharon's Wine Blog

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I think I’m usually pretty lucky. There are some things that haunt wine lovers. Corked wines. Premature oxidation of white Burgundies (and, some are now sinisterly saying, of Alsaces perhaps and next, who knows, Muscadet?). Brettanomyces. Other sundry flaws that leave you aghast and pouring out glass and bottle into the nearest drain. I don’t usually run into those specters. My corked bottle rate is so low you’d think I had some kind of saran wrap secretly hidden in my fingers.*

But recently, alas, my luck was out. I had the most alarmingly, awfully flawed bottle of wine I have perhaps ever had the misfortune to taste.

2003 Léon Barral Faugères Tradition
. Now, I had the 2005 version of this usually lovely and straightforward wine a few weeks ago. It was, well, lovely and straightforward.

Flash forward to its 2003 incarnation. Uh, oops! Who poured nail polish remover into my Faugères? The nose was acetone and ungainly. It could only be less marked on the palate, I reasoned in my benightedness. Slurp. Ugh, no! It was in fact worse. Along with the nail polish remover taste was a dirty, rotten uncleanness in the background, hovering and killing all fruit and pleasure.

For once, for me, one sip was enough.

*For, as old wino’s tales tell us, dipping saran wrap into a glass of corked wine whisks away the corkiness (along with some fruit and other flavor components, but you can’t have everything).

Virginia Legislative Update

This post is by from Pinot Law

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There are four key pieces of legislation moving their way through the Virginia legislature that impact the Commonwealth’s wineries.  They are briefly detailed below, and for what it is worth, all of this information is available through the Virginia Legislative Information System which can be accessed here. richmond2.jpg

HB2071 and SB1033. Both bills are in identical form (one on the House side, the other on the Senate), and would amend Section 15.2-2288.3 of the Virginia Code to require localities to take into consideration the agricultural nature of farm wineries before attempting to restrict the on-site marketing and sale of wine. The legislation was sponsored by Delegate Ed Scott (R-Culpeper) and Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) in the House and Senate, respectively.  The full text of HB2071 and SB1033 can be accessed here and here, respectively.

HB2606. This bill would have have permitted further regulation of farm wineries operating under so-called urban county governance. Interestingly, there is only one such county in Virginia: Fairfax County. Even more interesting, is the long, tortured history involving the single winery trying to open its doors in Fairfax County. That winery’s fate is still uncertain, but this legislation was part of this drama as you can read here.  There has been strong opposition to this bill in Virginia, arising from concerns of legislative/regulatory creep. Fortunately, for the Virginia wine industry, the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee voted to pass the bill by indefinitely on a voice vote Wednesday morning. And apparently, much credit must be given to Delegates Chris Saxman (R-Staunton) and Bobby Orrock (R-Caroline) who worked hard to support the Virginia wine industry.  The full text of HB 2606 can be accessed here.

SB 1445. This one is my personal favorite. Sponsored by Senator Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) it would permit wineries to solicit wine club memberships at wine festivals and events. The Virginia ABC apparently concluded that such solicitations were not permitted under present law (see second and third entries). If passed, this legislation would permit “wine of the month club” operators to solicit memberships at any location for which a permit to consume alcohol has been issued, including restaurants.  This is great — and fair — legislation that provides equal marketing opportunities for both in-state and out-of-state wineries.  The full text of SB 1445 can be accessed here.

As this and other legislation moves through the halls of Richmond, we will keep you updated.

Richmond2 used under a Creative Commons license provided by haddensavix.

The Caveman’s Wine Blog 2009-02-06 07:00:00

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An Unfashionable Grape
I Love Cabernet Franc

I had just finished writing my tasting note. Giving the remaining wine in my glass a good swirl, I took a deep, pensive whiff, and reread what I had written. Strawberry sorbet, cherries, cilantro, green pepper and cabbage – yes, they were all there. But then I thought, “Who is going to buy a wine that combines strawberry sorbet and cabbage?” While it made total sense in my glass, I can’t see Dairy Queen making this its flavour of the month.

The wine in question was a red from France’s Loire Valley, made entirely with cabernet franc. While this is one of the wine world’s most important grapes – in that it is the sixth-most grown grape in France and plays a part in some of the world’s greatest wines – more so than any other, people tend to love it or hate it.

This goes beyond the traditional New World vs. Old World schism. Yes, Robert Parker rarely reviews wines that are made entirely with cabernet franc, and its herbaceous quality is off-putting to many of you “fruit-forward” types. But I also know a number of sommeliers and wine freaks with very classic, European tastes who simply don’t like cabernet franc.

I think it gets a raw deal. Many of the best examples are relatively inexpensive, complex and flavourful wines.

While it can make some fantastic wines, cabernet franc’s most important contribution may be the grape that it helped parent: cabernet sauvignon. Recent DNA profiling has shown that one of the world’s most illustrious varietals is in fact a cross of cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc.

Cabernet franc is vinified on its own, most notably in France’s Loire Valley and other cooler climates, such as right here in Canada. Its major role, however, is in blending, especially alongside cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Depending on where you are in Bordeaux, for example, it can make up to 75 per cent of the final wine. On the left bank, in such hallowed communes as Pauillac and St. Estèphe, it is used by winemakers in small doses to “soften” cabernet sauvignon, as it adds both red fruits as well as signature aromatics – tobacco, flowers and its herbaceous quality.

On Bordeaux’s cooler right bank, cabernet franc plays an even more important role. Many of the most celebrated wines of Pomerol and St. Emilion have significant proportions of cabernet franc in the blend. The most famous of these is the legendary Cheval Blanc, the St. Emilion Grand Cru whose recipe is generally two-thirds cabernet franc, one-third merlot.

Even you Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon fanatics may have been unwittingly drinking some cabernet franc. Many of California’s top cabs have small amounts of cabernet franc in the blend, and more and more acreage is being devoted to growing the grape. These plantings are generally limited to cooler growing areas like Napa and Sonoma, where it can be positively juicy – showing sweet red fruits like raspberry and strawberry, and floral notes like violets.

But the controversial wines I am talking about here are those from the Loire. They come from such appellations as Chinon, Saumur-Champigny, Bourgueil and Anjou Villages. The styles can vary, from light and delicate summery wines to bigger wines that can age with grace and elegance, particularly those of Chinon and Saumur-Champigny.

Now back to strawberry and cabbage sorbet in my glass, which I have refilled since starting to write this. There is no doubt that herbaceousness is a quality in wine that is derided by a number of popular mags and their writers. It is definitely not fashionable. While I would agree that a wine with excessive herbaceous notes can be disagreeable, I really appreciate the subtle notes of peppers and other greenery found in this style of wine when it is done right. Aside from the flavour, I love its uniqueness.

This Anjou Villages in my glass is great. It was served slightly chilled, as an apéritif. Dinner was classic Greek: chicken brochettes, lots of oregano, basil and garlic, feta cheese. The wine never took control; its vegetal notes just supported the oregano and basil that perfumed our plate, the fruit and acidity refreshing the palate, cutting through the garlic and feta. It drank with ease.

The world of wine is incredibly diverse, and we are fortunate to live in a place where we have so much choice, where it is so easily accessible. Yves Saint Laurent said that “fashions fade, style is eternal”; let’s hope the future of wine remains more style than fashion.

Maryland Takes Another Crack at Direct Shipping

This post is by from Pinot Law

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I wrote about this topic last year, and despite the unhappy ending, I am glad to see that our neighbor to the North is once again taking a shot at changing its direct wine shipping laws (for the better).  Senator Jamie Raskin (my old law school professor) introduced the bill, S 388.

Among other things, the bill (Adobe required) would establish a direct wine shipper’s license issued by the State of Maryland.  In addition to permitting self distribution by in state wineries, it establishes a permit process for out of state wineries to ship into Maryland.  You can read more information about the bill here, including sponsors and legislative history.  

I became aware of this legislation after receiving an e-mail from these folks — the Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws.  I seem to recall these guys were around last year, and I wish them the best of luck in helping to get this legislation passed.  We will keep you posted.

Welcome DeLoach, Bouchard, Lyeth, and Louis Bernard to World Class Wines!

This post is by from A World Class Wine Blog

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We’re proud to announce World Class Wines has teamed with the legendary wines of Boisset America!

These are dynamic additions to our portfolio, and will help to round out our American and French selections. Bouchard has a stellar reputation as one of the top ‘major’ producers of Burgundy. Louis Bernard brings us value oriented wines from the Southern Rhone Valley. DeLoach has been on a tremendous roll the last couple of years, reducing production levels to 30% of what they were years ago. In other words, less wine and far more quality (they still have many of the best landholdings in the Russian River Valley). And Lyeth needs little to no introduction … in these times of customers looking for value and huge bang for the buck, Lyeth is on the top of everybody’s lists!

We look forward to a long and healthy relationship with our new friends, and we hope you will too. Expolore more information about Boisset at their website.

Posted in California, France, New arrivals, Sonoma

The Caveman’s Wine Blog 2009-02-03 10:30:00

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Two-faced Venice

Soave 2007, Classico, Inama, Italy white. There is such beauty in restraint. Subtle notes of peach, browning apples, maybe a touch of a bay-leaf type herb. But this is about drinkability- creamy, expansive, fresh and mineral. One of those wines that can be drunk with almost anything, at any time, and you never realize how much you liked it until after you reach for the bottle to refill your glass, only to find it empty. Drink now-2011.

Veneto Igt 2004, Cabernet Sauvignon, Marion, Italy red. Marion is the junior member of the Freaks of Veneto club led by Dal Forno and Quintarelli. This is Amarone meets Napa Valley cab, and most probably unlike any wine that you will have tasted. Massive, and lacking anything close to nuance for the moment, but you can sense that it is coming. Wait a while for this to come around. Drink 2011- 2017.