Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bit about corked wines...

I just read the blog post on Michael Bravermann's site Hamptons Rich & Pour about a dinner I attended last night. No need for me to re-address the evening as he has covered it nicely. But I would like to address the Dessert wine from the dinner and it's problem.

The said wine is a little Tannat from Vinedo de los Vientos in Urguay. The wine is a late harvest Tannat called Alcyone. I immediately noted that the first wine was corked and whispered this to Kelly, the Sommelier (as I am the consulting Wine Director, I wanted the corkiness to be discovered by someone else). The wine was quickly dismissed by most at the table as crap (before it was announced un-fit). Then Louisa Hargrave smelled the wine and publicly noted it as corked. Kelly got a second wine and poured that around, I noted a nuance that bothered me so I thought it might be the glassware and rinsed my glass. The wine was not as obviously corked but still not right and with a hint of a 'corked' note. After that wine was dismissed as well we gave up.

After everyone dispersed, Kelly and I tasted a third bottle that had been opened and was being used for a by-the-glass pour. The wine was spot on, perfect. It was the type of wine that I can just smell and be satisfied. Notes of mocha, chocolate and fresh raspberries, once I did taste the wine all the acidity and balance that was lacking in the other wines was there in spades adn it was obvious that the wine would be perfect to pair with the dessert of Toffee Date Cake with Maple Walnut Ice Cream.

Unfortunately for the little dessert Tannat, Kelly and I conferred and decided to replace the wine for the James Beard Dinner with Patrick Bottex La Cueille Bugey Cerdon Rosé, a sparkling wine from the Bugey area near the Savoie area south of Geneva. The wine is a blend of Gamay and Poulsard (local grape of the area).

So now a bit on the concept of a so-called corked wine. I may eventually make this a separate posting but for now:

Chlorine is used to sanitize many things in our world and it is used in solution to sanitize cork for use in food products. So here we go with a bunch of chemistry...

Chlorine reacts with phenols ( a natural component of oak bark to produce 2,4,6 trichlorophenol (or TCP). TCP is then metabolized by molds growing on the bark to produce 2,4,6, tricholoranisole, aka TCA. It is kind of odd that the Chlorine and resulting TCP was introduced to kill the molds in cork for use in preserving wine and those molds help to create the evil TCA or the 'cork' in a so-called corked wine.

There are also Pentachlorophenols found in insecticides and wood preservatives that metabolized by mold to the dreaded TCA. Wood preservatives are sprayed on oak trees, wood palates, wood ships and construction wood. This has gotten some wineries in trouble infecting their entire winery with TCA and creating a situation that requires some severe solutions.

If you need to understand what a 'corked' wine tastes like, take a piece of cardboard and soak it in a glass of water for awhile...or consider the smell of a damp old cellar.

The major problem with TCA beyond the nasty smell is when that smell is not noticed...either by someone that doesn't understand this issue in wine or someone with a relatively low threshold for that smell, is that a low amount of TCA contamination will hide a wines aromas and cause the wine to taste dull. It has been studied and researched and scientists have found that as little as 1ppm (part per million) of TCA will cause a wine to 'loose' its fruit and character. Yet many people only notice the 'corked'/TCA smell down to 7ppm! So there is plenty of room for error. What this means is that a lovely wine can taste very boring and dull without tasting corked and therefore this is bad for the producer, sommelier, wine store merchant or anyone else in the chain of that wines trip to being consumed.

The ppm thresholds of TCA seem to be a moving target, I will be doing more research on this in the near future.

Here are a few links about the issue that I have found useful, but as I said, TCA thresholds seem to be a moving target.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

HR 5034: The Prohibition/Monopoly Legislation

For more than six months I have been made crazy by the concept that 151 of our Congressman feel that the wine, beer and spirit wholesale companies need protection from the big, bad small producers and the consumer!

The idea that a legislation is needed to protect big business is silly. As they saying goes in politics, just follow the money. And there is plenty to follow in this battle, the NBWA (National Beer Wholesalers Association) is the 4th largest political contributor. They have contributed 2.6 million in the most recent election cycle.

In Long Island, we have an expanding wine industry with more than 40 wineries. Tim Bishop is one of the sponsors of the HR 5034 Bill, which makes no sense at all as it is anti-winery. Alas, Mr. Bishop has taken as much as $30,000 in campaign contributions from the NBWA. Oops, that seems to have back-fired as he is in a major race to stay the Congressman. Right now there is a recount happening that shows his opponent about 400 votes in the lead. Very interesting as there are 40ish wineries...hmm, 10 votes per winery going against Bishop!?! I just wonder.

Monday, August 23, 2010


For many years we have heard about the danger of deflation and how certain moves by the Federal Reserve could keep that from happening and other moves could increase the likeliness of deflation happening.

Well, I believe we are seeing serious signs of deflation happening now in the wine industry. Every week now the new vintage of a wine or a wine region is released and most of the high-end wines are being released at prices that are lower than I have seen in several years. This is a good trend if it is only effecting the wine industry at the higher price points. Wine prices have been out of control since the 2000 and 2003 vintages of Bordeaux were released. But I am worried about how this will shake out in the larger or Macro view of business.

Now this trend is going the other direction for the 2009 Futures market from Bordeaux. But that has to do with the 300 million middle and upper class citizens of China and the change in the import tax on wine in Hong Kong. Seems that some wineries are aware of the opportunity in China and are working to get their wines into that market. China has the most potential in the wine industry for growth, with India, South America and North America trailing just behind. Actually it has been predicted that the US will be the largest consumer of wine in the year 2013, but we might not hold that title for long.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

NY Distributor Dumps Bordeaux Inventory

NY Distributor Dumps Bordeaux Inventory

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Ok - so I'm talkin' to myself again - at least people are following my twitter a bit. This and other stories about the deals to be found for the consumer and other buyers is seriously old. Bunch of people obviously asleep at the wheel. I'm even trying to find new outlets including going directly to negociants in Bordeaux for opportunities! If you like deals - checkout 2001 Côte Rôtie being poured by the glass at The Maidstone in East Hampton, NY! Yes mature Côte Rôtie by the Glass.


Wines & Vines - Wine Industry News Headlines - Winery Shows Off Flash Extraction

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This does not thrill me. Another way to cheat nature and real winemaking and viticulture talents. Checkout this from the article:

"Cortessis said Flash-Détente is most appropriate for use on low-quality grapes. But he added that it had other advantages, such as the ability to create a variety of styles from the same grapes. And for large-scale producers, he said, Flash-Détente is “a way to short-circuit the red winemaking process.” When the juice is fermented without the skins, there’s no pumping over or punching down, and no dirty work of mucking skins and seeds out of the fermentation tanks."


Saturday, February 6, 2010

The iPad

The iPad & The Wine Afficionado

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I thought the same thing the day the iPad came out. Huge opportunities to develop some great apps for the wine industry. Whose gonna help me!?!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wine in New York Grocery Stores & Chains

New York is the third largest wine producing state, behind California and Washington State. Both of those states have wine in grocery stores and thriving (though currently suffering from a weak economy) wine industries. So why should New York be different? First and foremost is because, the New York SLA (State Liquor Authority) has had laws in place that have made the small wine and liquor retail establishments stay that way. The laws in place make it illegal to have multiple stores, illegal to have buying co-ops with other stores and many other laws that have made it difficult to do business for wine stores. To change all that overnight so that the Governor can add a couple of percentages to the budget is anti small business, but to keep the laws the same is anti free-trade. SO there must be some kind of a compromise, and the little added nuggets to placate the small wine stores owners is not enough.

If this law is changed without more adjustments to it, there will be a ripple affect that will start with wine & liquor stores and bounce all through the New York wine industry and when that happens it will come back to haunt the government. As of now there are many attacks on this legislation from within the wine industry and many advocates that want in. What's best for the consumer and the small businesses and employment? I personally don't believe passing this as is will be good for those and will mostly benefit big corporate america. Hurray, wasn't it big corporate america that caused the economic downturn that means Governor Paterson needs to find more revenue for the state? So giant corporations broke it, lets give big corporate america a payoff so the Governor can add a few million (less than $100M) to a multi-billion dollar problem.

Don't get me wrong, I am not anti-trade or anti-competition, but lets not do this without any thought for small business while giving big business a wind-fall. And don't kid yourself about prices changing drastically - the New York Wine Retail industry competes now with California and their big Supermarket Chains due to internet wine sales.


I have written about wine since 2004 in published magazines, remember those, publications that are printed on paper, then later posted to the internet. I have tried blogging in the past with very little success, but now I think I may have found a reason to post more frequently and perhaps get some readers interest now and again.

What I plant to write about is not wine, what wine I love or hate or some droll note on a wine, but I want to write notes here about the wine business and link to other sources with news that I feel should be read by those of us that care about the wine industry. Things in the wine industry have changed enormously with the change in shipping laws, the internet and now the weak economy. As a New Yorker a new important issue is being debated loudly right now concerning wine being sold in grocery stores. I know this seems ridiculous to those wine consumers in California, Washington State and Europe, but...