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Sunday, March 15, 2009


I understand how trends happen and one decade you have Merlot as #1 and another Pinot. But there's a helluva lot of people looking to be out in front of the next trend. For instance, if Syrah and Viognier gain some popularity then the buzz starts. And there will be someone wanting to know what's next after that. Hell, I dunno, go buy some Tempranillo futures. :)

In the high-end price range where people with that kind of money should be much smarter you find folks looking for the next trendy $150 Napa Cab. Not the ones that are popular now, but who's next. Remember all the rage over Pride Mtn? Are they out of fashion now? The really trendy seek out "pre-cult" wines. Want to know what these are? Just Google "california cult wines" and you'll find thousands of "answers."

There are different kinds of wine-buyers: These folks are sometime called image seekers--they're looking to impress somebody else. Other types of wine buyers are traditionalists that stick to the big brands that have been around a long time--Gallo, Mondavi, etc. Other people just look for bargains, sometimes in traditional varietals (Chardonnay and Cabernet); sometimes in non-traditional wine like Malbec. Of course, Malbec is kind of trendy. See how complicated it gets for the wine marketing people!

I guess I don't get the trendiness. I still wear t-shirts in the hot weather, flannels in the cold, and drive a Mustang, so I'm not much for being out in front of everybody else, I guess. It's great to try different and new things, but don't spend a lot of time (and money) on Albariño because you heard it's The Next Big Thing. Just try it (by the glass if you can) and see if it's worth the money.

One of the problems with new varieties in CA is learning where to plant, how to grow and how to make it. It took a long time to figure out Pinot Noir; it seems like they're still figuring out Syrah. And if CA didn't try to make Viognier like Chardonnay maybe it would do better. We're starting to get some nice Rhone-style blends; maybe we'll see some Spanish blends, too, someday.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Screwcaps on premium wine

Yeah, screwcaps are a big topic amongst wine geeks. The Traditionalists vs. The Practical as it's usually played out.

What has cork got going for it? It's renewable, sort of, if we don't use it too quickly (like timber).

I worked at a winery using screwcaps on several wines. I occasionally got a call from someone upset or confused about it, but not very often. I also spent quite a bit of time educating customers and that's all right. I'd rather pour good wine for people not sure about our choice of closure than pour crap with a cork.

In the U.S. it's really Gallo's fault because all of their cheap crap many of us remember, not in a good way, comes with screw tops. Other countries don't have this issue with screw tops = cheap, bad wine. Hopefully, we'll get there.

I've opened lots of bottles in tasting rooms and the wine quality and variability by bottle does depend on the winery and their source of corks. It's probably one bottle in every couple cases that is corked. (producing a musty smell to the wine).

The other issue is corked wine is not just and on-off switch. Slightly corked wine doesn't have the musty odor, but it does knock the fruit down. That is there's no fruit aroma or taste. Unless you really know a particular wine it's unlikely you'd detect it as being corked; more likely you'll just think it's not a good wine. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want my product being distributed this way.

So is a screw cap a better closure for wine? Easily. Heck, even wine in a box has a better chance of survival than cork.

It comes down to, would you rather be corked or screwed? :)