Posts Filed Under crowd pleaser wines
Thomas Jefferson had a strong love of wine (and beer), an historical tidbit that seems to have glued itself with more stickiness than an Rutherglen Muscat to our collective national legacy of our third President, right up their with tales of his intelligence, his elegant correspondences, and the fact that he finally checked-out on July 4th – U.S. Independence Day – in his eighties (and up to his eyeballs in debt).
Less well-known is that Jefferson touted Scuppernong as the next big thing in American winemaking, telling Washington Judge William Johnson in 1817 that it “would be distinguished on the best tables of Europe for its fine aroma, and chrystalline [sic] transparence.”
It seems ol’ T.J., in focusing on potential, lacked first president George Washington’s uncanny ability to see things for how they really were (at least when it comes to vino). Because Scuppernong wine is like… well, let’s just say we can poke fun at most Scuppernong because it’s Scuppernong.
Given the beauty of Jefferson’s Monticello estate, which was on full display (along with, less romantically, the oppressive Northern VA heat & humidity combo) at a mass-tasting of Virginian wines held there during the recent 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference, one might forgive T.J. for erring on the side of vinous over-optimism.
Given what I tasted that evening (even despite the mile-wide-inch-deep approach that is the bane of any grand tasting), the Virginia wine industry might be forgiven the odd bout of over-optimism as well, because the winemaking situation there is clearly on the right track, if not quite yet delivering fully on its promise as the next big thing in American wine.
Ahh, T.J…. you were only off by about 194 years! But you were a total Mac Daddy with the WBC11 ladies (see inset pic for photographic proof), so maybe we shouldn’t hold it against you.
Anyway… let’s talk about what went well in Virginia, vinously-speaking, of course!…
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During my March jaunt to South America, I spent my birthday at the Santiago home of Derek Mossman, the man behind Chile’s Garage Wine Co. and iconoclastic director of MOVI (Movimiento de Viñateros Independientes, or “Movement of Independent Vintners”).
Think of them as the collective vinous mice, who are making tiny amounts of hand-crafted wines and are roaring at the Chile’s modern winemaking industrial lions in an area dominated by a (very) small amount of (very) big players who make (very) massive quantities of wine. They count among their ranks a Swiss lawyer, a French photographer, a former submarine maker and a Scottish miner – not exactly your typical band of Chilean winemaking bothers (or sisters).
MOVI have been making a splash lately, releasing wines that are garnering increasing amounts of critical acclaim (guilty! – see my faves below after the jump) and news coverage. In the long-overdue return of 1WineDude Radio podcasts, I talk to Derek about where MOVI sits in the grand scheme of the Chilean wine industry, the over-oaking to hell of wines generally, what makes truly authentic wine, and whether or not MOVI is achieving its vision of “effort and dreams put into the bottle.” Trust me, this guys is good for a controversial quote… or two (or ten). Enjoy!
1WineDude Radio Episode 7 – MOVI
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In this episode, I chastise Vinos Navarra for making extra work for me (sort of), and profile Portuguese producer Oscar Quevedo‘s unique approach to wine and social media (quick review of one of his latest below after the vid), which seems to jive pretty well with the style of consumer engagement that Gary V. championed in our recent interview from the Nomacorc wine marketing symposium at Napa’s CIA.
Talk about robust. And peppery, too, with a ton of black fruit that has concentration but isn’t screaming at you about its over-ripeness. It’s a solid effort, and pretty much exactly what you’d expect from the Douro but with a friendlier, approachable streak, without at all being ponderous. For sure this is a wine tailor-made for the grill (the closer you get to steak territory with this, the better).
Quick quiz for you: How many times can you listen to a winery’s PR guy mention Robert Parker scores before you want to shove wine barrel bungs into your ears to drown out all sound?
For me, the answer is “somewhere around 25 times,” which is about the amount I endured in the impressive underground barrel storage area of Errazuriz during my recent visit to Chile. I certainly don’t blame their PR for dousing me with the Robert Parker score hose during my visit – Errazuriz are clearly (and justifiably) proud of the accolades that their wines have received; they’ve been at the production of high-end, “icon” wines longer than just about anybody else in Chile, after all. But… what I had a difficult time with was the relentlessness with which that stream of scores was trained at my poor, unsuspecting ears.
God knows I don’t hate Parker, and I don’t hate wine scores (I find them very limiting, and rife for misuse, but don’t hate them). While I find Parker’s palate prefers wines that, to me, come off a bit on the brutish side (and quite a few of Errazuriz’s releases fall into that category), I’m sure plenty of people who like the higher-scoring Parker selections likely find my highly-rated selections on the tepid, shy side.
All further proof that you owe it to yourself to learn your own taste preferences before following the advice of critics too closely, I suppose.
Anyway… back to the cellar of PR pain…
I actually tried to derail said PR person by mentioning (when we were discussing Bordeaux wine prices versus those of Chile’s finest reds) that I’d interviewed Parker fairly recently. I figured what the hell, maybe telling him I’d had contact with Parker would at least change the context of the current discussion about Parker. Nope – that tactic had about the same effect as trying to stop a charging elephant with a grade-school-classroom-grade spitball. So I turned it into a learning opportunity, and the lesson was this:
Reciting a litany of wine scores isn’t really marketing!
It wasn’t helping the oppressive vibe any that day that the icon winery at Errazuriz is impressively imposing in its starkness, or that the barrel rooms have brick and calcareous rock that measures up to two and a half inches thick in some places – while good for withstanding Chile’s earthquakes, the whole thing came off as being a bit too overwhelming, and it all felt just a tad old school.
Quite a marked contrast to the experience I had just a few hours earlier when visiting Errazuriz’s western vineyard location, the gorgeous Chilhue Manzanar (“seagull’s place” in Mapudungun, the language of the region’s indigenous Mapuche people) 120 km northwest of Santiago, and mere 12 km from the Pacific ocean…
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