Archive for May, 2010
Given its name, you’d expect the “invisibles collection” – a new line of glassware from crystal makers Ravenscroft, to be light, and probably thin.
You’d be right of course, based on the stemware sample that they sent to me recently.
What you might not expect, though, is the effect that the “Invisibles” glass has on the wine within it – at least, I wasn’t expecting the surprising effect that I experienced.
More on that in a minute (or two). First, I want to cover the aesthetics of the glass itself – both good and bad.
The particular sample I received was one of Ravenscroft’s Invisibles Chianti/Riesling glasses, which they recommend for use when drinking “Beaujolais, Carignan, Chianti, Cotes du Roussillon, Dolcetto, Montepulciano, Primitivo, Red Zinfandel, Sangiovese and Teroldego.” Oddly, Riesling isn’t mentioned in the list, but since it’s in the name of the model line, it’s the wine I used to test it out.
The first thing you notice is that the glass is very light and is quite thin, and it feels very well-balanced when you’re holding it by the stem and it has a standard 1/3-full pour in it. Despite the light weight, it doesn’t feel at all flimsy. Over-pouring does, however, make the glass feel unbalanced in your hand, which I suppose is a reasonable trade-off given the light weight (you shouldn’t be over-pouring anyway, you lush!).
The Invisibles line are hand-made and lead-free, and my sample glass had subtle but noticeable flaws of air bubbles in the base and at the very bottom of the stem, and the base didn’t sit perfectly flat on a smooth level table surface. I’m not a glass snob (and I really dug the overall tulip-shaped design), but if you’re coughing up over $40 for a set of stemware you’d probably be within rights to send back the glass for a replacement if it had the same issues as my sample, even if it’s blown by hand.
Ok, so after all of these aesthetic cavils, what about what the glass does to the wine?…
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If you live in the U.S. (and chances are high that if you’re reading this, you are in the U.S.), then it’s likely that you’ve been drinking some low-priced Malbec wine lately.
Don’t take my word for it – for some hard data on Malbec drinking trends in the U.S., you can check out a recent article by Laura Saieg on WineSur.com:
“According to a report issued by Nielsen, in the last 52 weeks, the consumption of Malbec grew by 60%. This makes Malbec the best performing variety in the US market… In 2009, in spite of the pronounced decline of American economy, there was a consumption increase of 6 million cases with respect to 2008. Most of these cases were within the retail price bracket of under USD 10 per bottle. This was due to the fact that, in response to the crisis, consumers changed their habits and chose less expensive wines. Americans changed from consuming less expensive bottles to focusing on obtaining the best possible value. Restaurant wine sales fell by 6% to 9% this year as consumers, under tight budgets, stopped dining out and preferred to stay at home and buy wine at wine stores.”
Maybe you’ve had one (or several) of those extra 72 million bottles of Malbec consumed in the good ol’ U.S. of A. last year? Looks like we can’t get enough of the stuff.
What’s most interesting, from a marketing / consumption / trending standpoint, is that you probably had that bottle at home while overall you were drinking less expensive wine (in both senses of the term).
By any measure, that’s a big coop for Malbec producers during the global recession, and it will be interesting to see if the trend continues. It’s unclear from the WineSur.com article if most of the Malbec that we Americans gulped down was from Argentina, but it’s not unreasonable to conclude that.
Which might be why the French, who invented the stuff, are coming (possibly quite late) to Malbec bandwagon party…
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“They already got themselves a woodchuck today.”
Sam Argetsinger was leading a slow but determined downhill walking pace, flanked by his two dogs who had done the woodchuck hunting before we’d arrived. He is stout, and affable, and his wide smile accentuates a face of weathered features. Sam’s vineyard is small, relatively steep, and on the morning of May 8 it was playing host to a series of alternating bursts of warming sunshine from above, and strong cold breezes off of New York’s Seneca Lake.
A group of thirty-odd wine writers and bloggers descended onto the area as part of TasteCamp East; I was part of a dozen-or-so who were taking a morning tour of Sam’s vineyard on the second day of our trip. We had already, in a mere half-day, tasted dozens and dozens of Finger Lakes wines, some of which have been sourced from Sam’s vineyard.
“The other thing about woodchucks,” added Sam, stopping briefly and turning to face a small number of our group walking closest to him, and uttering the words without a modicum of sarcasm, “is that they’re delicious.” We laugh, of course – most of us aren’t farmers and none of us has ever tasted woodchuck.
“Must taste like chicken!” one of us says. Sam’s response – again without hesitation and appearing completely genuine: “Naw – it tastes like muskrat, mostly.” Sam then briefly explains how woodchuck gut can be employed to create a fine-sounding drum skin.
Welcome to the Finger Lakes, folks, where the water – carved out of the land like the claw marks of angry gods by retreating glaciers eons ago – runs long, narrow, and deep, like the traditions and views of the region’s people.
It would have been easy to joke that a Fingers Lake red is the best thing to pair with that woodchuck (or muskrat), given the past history of red wines from the region. And there certainly is nothing about Sam’s vineyard that would suggest anything other than the belief that This Is Riesling Country: from the steep plantings facing the water, to the heightened amplification of every nuance of viticulture – aspect, elevation, light exposure, ripening… we might as well be in the Mosel, right?
Exactly what you’d expect of the Finger Lakes.
That is, until you taste the wines that aren’t Riesling. Until you taste the region’s new reds…
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