Evidence of the cardiovascular benefits of a healthy diet along with the consumption of a moderate amount of wine continues to mount.
A major clinical study published in this past week’s issue of The New England Journal of Medicine shows diet–including wine–has a major impact on heart health. There is a nice, layman’s summary of the study in Monday’s New York Times:
About 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals…
The magnitude of the diet’s benefits startled experts. The study ended early because the results were so compelling, the study monitors considered it unethical to continue.
Once again, we are reminded that a healthy diet, specifically one high in olive oil, legumes, fruits, vegetables and lean protein such as fish along with the consumption of wine is a very good way to reduce cardiac risk, and to actually prevent heart attacks and stroke.
News flash! You no longer have to spend $80 for a bottle of Pegau! Guess what happens when you own 40+ acres of vineyards in Chateauneuf-du-Pape (and that’s a lot of Chateauneuf!) and want to sell off some of your production, say as Cote du Rhone? French wine law only allows CdP to be declassified as non vintage Vin de Pays, or “country wine.” Lucky you. Dynamic Laurent Feraud, owner of Domaine Pegau, has those 40+ acres of CdP and has fashioned a stunning value in Plan de Pegau. After tasting a vertical of Pegau CDP with her a few months ago spanning 30 years, we got a taste of the Plan and the planning began. So close to that Pegau pedigree, this is a delicious mouthful that will leave you with a cash-back smile.
The cost to acquire Barolo vineyards is outrageously high, about $700,000 per acre Luca Currado, 4th generation wine maker at Vietti explained to us today. And that’s if you can find any for sale. It just doesn’t happen much.
One of those rare opportunities arose a few years ago with a tiny piece of Lazzarito, a cru in Serralunga d’alba. It was owned by a brother and sister team, neither of whom had ever married. Vietti had bought grapes from this parcel for years. In her 70s the sister unfortunately passed away leaving the brother in sole control of the land. Now alone he confided to Luca he would sell the vineyard and offered him first shot. Despite the high cost Luca knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire a great vineyard.
He also knew he had to move quickly, closing the purchase in record time. Less than two weeks later the previous vineyard owner and 78-year-old lifelong bachelor married his 23-year-old Romanian bride. Had Luca hesitated there’s no telling how high the price of this piece of Lazzarito would have been.
That’s the life or at least a perfect Sunday for Serena Sutcliffe, 20-year head of Sotheby’s international wine department, and her MW husband. Then they go down to the cellar and pull from the French selection and decant a 1970 port. According to an interview in the Financial Times, it’s off to church, a dim sum lunch, and a long walk to Kensington Garden. That evening she cooks, he decants the reds and they pre-taste.
“We begin with a glass of Champagne around 8 p.m. and often don’t pour the port until just before midnight.” Sure, Monday will come soon enough “but I find I sleep so much better after a great weekend and a really good dinner with lots of lovely wines.”
Well-said. P.S. For a wicked Saturday morning pleasure, Sutcliffe indulges a rare squirt of perfume, a no-no in the rest of the week.
Our access to Mollydooker’s 2010 Velvet Glove will be a bit more limited. This past week a malfunctioning forklift dropped the container that held 1/3 of the winery’s annual production of its top flight Shiraz - some 462 cases valued at $1M – as it was being loaded onto a ship for export to the U.S. “The container manager said that when his team came and told him what had happened, he was looking around for cameras to see if it was a ‘gotcha’ hoax,” shares winemaker Sparky Marquis. “He realized it was serious when nobody was laughing.”
As insurance adjusters sift through the rubble, Marquis and his team mourn the loss of a huge chunk of this past year’s efforts and their September U.S. release. “As you can imagine, this wine is our pride and joy. To see it accidentally destroyed, and not consumed, has left us all a bit numb.”
Please allow me to demystify the seemingly excessive number single-vineyard labels from many wineries. We carry a host of Oregon Pinot Noirs from Cristom, Lemelson, Willakenzie, and more that bear the same vintage, yet have their own unique identities. The easiest way to discern the differences between these offerings is through a “horizontal tasting.” Unlike vertical tastings that feature a number of the exact same wines from different vintages, horizontals employ the same grape from the same vintage crafted by the same winemaker, but from different subsections of the winery’s property that enjoy unique soil characteristics (and often elevations and/or sun exposure).
Willamette Valley is home to three main soil types: volcanic, sedimentary, and Loess. Volcanic, or Jory, is Dundee Hills’ most prominent; sticky, red and rich in nutrients, it’s a great host for any planting and imparts notes of red fruit. Sedimentary is dry — like talc — and difficult. Growers must work to keep it moist, though the end result is a better structured wine with black fruit and chocolate flavors. Loess, or windblown silty loam, lies somewhere between the others. This bright red fruit producing soil is most prominent in the Chehalem Mountains.
Yealands Estate went back to basics for its 2011 grape harvest, replacing propane gas with burning vine clippings, an effort that reduced the winery’s annual utility outlay by $170k.It’s not common knowledge that a winery attributes 85% of its energy consumption to heating and cooling the wine. “The Bio-Mass Boiler has been specially designed,” Peter Yealands offers, “to heat the winery’s water and glycol – a liquid that is pumped into ‘jackets’ around fermentation tanks to heat or cool the wine.” Only 10% of Yealands’ cuttings go to fuel the boilers with the rest chopped and reintroduced to the ground as mulch. Figures suggest Marlborough’s vast collection of vineyards produce enough vine refuse to power 14,000 homes. Yealands adds, “Not only is this initiative great for the environment, it also provides evidence that sustainable wine production is commercially viable.” Pretty slick.
There’s a constant sort of flow of information, new products and ideas, in the wine business. And it’s one line of work in which much of the current guard possesses a steadfast focus on sustainability and renewability. With finite space and resources, it’s a necessity. One area that sees the most diverse efforts is packaging. There are closures: cork, plastic, rubber, glass, metal screw tops, and spigots. And the vessels themselves: glass, plastic, and ceramic bottles, bags in boxes, and cans. Three domestic wineries now offer wine in large 1.5L Capri Sun-looking pouches. In comparison to their glass counterparts, they chill in half the time and stay fresh for a month after you draw the first serving. Plus, the carbon footprint is 80% lower.
One winery advertises the benefits of this format when camping or hiking, as the garbage you take home rolls up into a little ball. These bags have been available in Europe, Australia, and South Africa for years. Leave it to us Yanks to snooze behind the curve.
We’ve had some Malibu “Ready-to-Drink” elixirs in these pouches for some time now. Still waiting on wines.
AstrApouch Fun Fact: 1 truck load of empty AstraPouch packages is equal to 14 truckloads of empty glass bottles
The Liquor Control Board of Ontario tests every unique bottle that crosses its borders - nearly 130,000 between 1992 and 2009 - and found that winemakers the globe over are, though within legal limits, falsely reporting alcohol percentages (the U.S. and Canada allow for a variance of +/-1 percent on wine labels). Turns out only 10% of producers report accurately with Chile, Argentina, and the U.S. as the biggest BSers, each over 20% off their stated percentage.
With wines becoming increasingly stronger, the preponderance of offenses are lowballed levels. Why so strong? With global warming trends and advances in winemaking techniques we see berries with elevated sugars (California grapes swelled 11% from 21.4 brix in 1980 to 23.8 brix in 2007), which contributes to higher alcohol levels in a market where folks seek wines with less heat. Says a study by the American Association of Wine Economists, “Some winemakers…have admitted they deliberately chose to understate the alcohol content on a wine label…because they believed that it would be advantageous for marketing the wine to do so…”
False advertising indeed. Kinda like a Wonderbra in reverse. I don’t mind higher alcohol – the ’07 Turnbull Cab and ’07 Marietta Angeli Cuvee are pretty hot – but I’m a straight rum and bourbon sipper. I can take it. So quit whining about wine being too strong. Or make the switch to Crystal Light, Sally.
Global warming trends threaten to diminish the amount of arable land in Napa Valley. Using a convoluted logarithm doohickey, Stanford researchers concluded that prime Napa wine property may decrease 50% by 2040. One positive result is, if the trend continues, Oregon and some areas in Washington will likely become more suitable for Cab, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, sliding the winemaking belt northward.
So bust out those checkbooks and start searching the Pacific northwest for wine property.
In the 80s people were really high on Coke in glass bottles
When I was very young, my mom would buy 12-packs of tall, slender glass bottles of pop (I’m from Chicago) with the metal caps like on import beers, the ones you need a bottle opener to get at. Today a glass soda bottle sighting is tantamount to spotting a sasquatch or a teenager not texting. The segue to plastic was vague; I don’t recall any public outcry, but I was a kid. I suspect the paradigm shift occured more to augment the bottom line, though, in the end, it was also enviornmentally sound.
These days the green movement is far-reaching. And wine packaging is taking all sorts of odd turns in an effort to elicit the least amount of damage to the planet. A recent article on Reuters tells of a switch by some winemakers in the U.S., New Zealand, and France from glass to plastic. I can hear the outcry now. It’s going to ruin the flavor! It’s tacky! It’s not traditional! And each argument would be wrong. At this point it’s a matter of retraining consumers, educating us and debunking myths and misunderstandings. If it ruins flavor (which it does not), how can we drink countless liters of water, soda, Gatorade and more every day from plastic bottles without cringing? To deem something tacky is strictly a matter of societal programming and has zero to do with quality. And traditional? It’s not traditional to let women vote or own land. It’s when we turn away from tradition that society experiences true growth.
I won’t lie. Pouring wine from a plastic bottle is not appealing. At all. But plastic is 100% percent recyclable, unbreakable, and 89% lighter than glass, which translates to greatly diminished transportation costs and, subsequently, a much smaller carbon footrpint. So what’s more important, our perceived understanding of what is acceptable or the health of the planet? The answer’s easy. Making it happen and getting comfortable with it is a different story.
I recently shared an article in which the Duchess of Cornwall insisted on calling British sparkling wine “champagne.” She should be happy to know that there are some people in Hampshire devoting some thought and energy to her dilemma. AXA Millésimes managing director Christian Seely wishes for English sparkling to wear its own name. He and partner Nicholas Coates came up with “Britagne,” a term they hope reflects the wines’ prestige and increasing quality.
Though style is up to the individual producer, quality is imperative. Utilization of the name will mandate adherence to Méthode Britannique, a specific production method, necessitate the inclusion of only Champagne grapes, and the wines must undergo a secondary fermentation in the bottle. Reactions vary. What’s yours?
A recent article in The Telegraph reports our French counterparts in Generation X and the more recent crop of Internet Generation adults elicited a marked decrease in France’s overall wine consumption. The figures are staggering (especially when you take into consideration population increases since the Baby Boom that followed WWII), dropping from 7 billion bottles per year to 4 billion, with the last two generations enjoying an occasion less and less frequently.
So what does this mean for the French wine industry? Probably not much given a vastly expanded global market due in part to China’s insatiable appetite. The article’s lament revolves more around a loss of tradition, a common cry when the torch is passed. I can only speak for the culture in which I live. I have a filtered water pitcher and Crystal Light in my frig. My wine rack is stocked right now, but I only pop a bottle once a week when I’m feeling froggy, partaking with daily meals isn’t a reality. But this is America. We don’t make a lot of sense sometimes. Or maybe we make too much sense. I sure would like to see a renaissance of the three martini lunch. And lead-based paint.