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Bringing Tough Love To Cape Town (Nederburg Wine Auction 2013)

Vinted on August 20, 2013 binned in going pro, on the road

I’m very excited to tell you that I’ll be delivering the keynote address at the 39th Nederburg Wine Auction in Cape Town, South Africa on September 7th.

Nederburg is often cited as one of the wine world’s most major auctions annually. So… no pressure… no pressure…! The 2013 auction collection includes 72 red wines, 36 white wines, one Méthod Cap Classique, eight dessert wines and 15 fortified wines, and I’m looking forward to trying them all. Anthony Barne, MW from Bonhams is taking up the slamming-down-the-hammer duties.

My keynote is tentatively titled “Hustling Wine in the land of Big Hat, No Cattle: How South Africa Can Win in the U.S. Wine Marketplace” – and I think we both know that the Cape Townians (sp?) have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into.

I’m fortunate to be following up the previous keynote work of two friends of mine, Mike Veseth and David White, who delivered the keynote addresses at the Nederburg auction in 2012 and 2011, respectively. I’m pretty sure that both of them did so while wearing jackets and standing respectfully behind a podium, so the Nederburg attendees are in for something completely and totally different when I hit that stage. And no, I won’t be wearing platform shoes. Anyway, I’ll be touching on themes that both of those gentlemen used as cornerstones in their keynote speeches, namely the U.S. economy (mostly in how bad of a shape it really is, and what that means for future wine buying) and the changing of the guard when it comes to wine tastemaker and consumer opinion-forming (yes, Millennials, you will be get top billing in this, as a bit of a spin-off of ideas touched on during the speech about the U.S. wine market I gave while in Argentina earlier this year).

I hope that my South African cohorts are ready for a bit of well-meant tough love, because they’ve got their work cut out for them in terms of conquering the U.S. wine market, not in small part due to the fact that the only things that most American know about South Africa are District 9 and Lethal Weapon 2 (“Dip-lo-matic immunity!!!” BANG! “Just been revoked!”).

But despite that challenging starting point, the hill can, indeed, be taken. How? Well, that part gets revealed when I prance around on stage in Cape Town in September.

In the meantime… if you have thoughts on how South African wine can compete on the U.S. playing field (and that you’d like me to consider quoting in the keynote address), then, in the immortal words of KISS, shout it, shout it, shout it, shout it out loooooud!

Cheers!

The Riesling Up-And-Comers That You’re Probably Ignoring (Riesling Rendezvous 2013)

You’d think that, as a self-professed Riesling freak, I’d have been in a Happy Place that was damn near orgasmic in attending the 2013 Riesling Rendezvous in Seattle, as a media guest of the organizers.

And you’d be right, of course. For Riesling lovers, this was “I’d better go change my pants again” kind of tasting event, with Riesling stalwarts (and their wines) assembled from all over the globe (with the oddly notably exception of Alsace, of which not a drop was poured over the weekend).

But that’s not a good story. I mean, as tear-enducingly, soul-achingly good as some of the Rieslings from Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, Robert Weil, Dr. Loosen (the good doctor Ernie was in the house at RR, by the way) and A. Christmann can be… is it really that interesting to tell you that they’re still tear-enducingly, soul-achingly good? Not really, methinks (now there’s a word that doesn’t get enough airtime these days!).

No, the story is about the Rieslings that aren’t quite as tear-enducingly, soul-achingly good, but are still pretty damn good, the Rieslings that hail from locations that would surprise most of the Riesling purists out there. And I should know, since I participated in two sessions of twenty blind-tasted Rieslings during which MWs, winemakers, sommeliers and wine media pros all took turns mostly getting the provenance of those wines totally and completely wrong. Which means that Riesling now being made worldwide is probably getting better, converging on a consistent flavor and aroma profile “fingerprint,” and now more than ever before offers more quality choices for those who are willing to explore some of the Riesling-producing areas whose names aren’t yet on the tip of your tongue, but whose wines probably ought to be…

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(Surprising) Results Of The 2013 Critics Challenge

Late last month, I wrapped up a stint at the fourth and final wine competition in which I’d be judging in 2013, the 10th Annual Critics Challenge in (Stay Classy) San Diego.

The results of that comp. have been announced. Following are some thoughts on the Critics Challenge itself, and notes on some of the winning wines.

All hyperbole aside, I loved judging at the Critics Challenge with a passion that burns like the core of a million undiscovered stars [ Editor’s Note: not all hyperbole has been taken aside ]. And so, this might turn out to be a love letter of sorts to the CC.

The only CC cavil I’ve got is that the location, a bit outside of downtown (Stay Classy) San Diego isn’t the most convenient or picturesque of spots (unless you really enjoy close-up views of twelve-lane highways and strip malls). Otherwise, the CC is the kind of wine comp. in which almost any judge wishes he could take part: high-caliber judges who aren’t douchebags, a volunteer staff that keeps pace with any (I’ve yet encountered) worldwide, a well-organized agenda, generally very-good-to-excellent wines being entered, and a total dismissal of what has become a meaningless award given in American wine comps. (the Bronze Medal). I can’t even fault them for giving me that Petit Sirah flight, since a) many of them were good, and b) they gave us Sensodyne whitening toothpaste.

Each of the CC judges is paired up, with each pair getting a volunteer captain to coordinate logistics, and the highest medal awarded between the pair for any given wine becomes the final award chosen (predicated on the idea that if you only invite judges who know what the hell they’re doing, this system should turn out to be fair to the wines and to consumers). In what I can only conclude was a fit of insanity, head honcho Robert Whitley paired me with ThirstyGirl.com founder and all-around-awesome-girl Leslie Sbrocco; we beat the oddsmakers, though, in that neither of us was either kicked out of the comp. or arrested by the (Stay Classy) San Diego police…

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Wine Competition Myths Busted (California State Fair 2013 Commercial Wine Competition Results)

Vinted on July 4, 2013 binned in kick-ass wines, on the road, wine industry events, wine review

As of last week, the results of the 2013 California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition have been fully revealed, and July 4th seemed an auspicious time to recap the (all American) Best of Show winners from the comp. (itself a bit of an American institution, having been established in the 1800s), and share my thoughts on my fave wine of the competition from the judge’s seat.

And now that I’ve completed my tour of the International wine judging circuit for 2013 (having lent my palate to the 2013 Argentina Wine Awards, the 2013 Wines of Portugal Challenge, the 2013 CA State Fair Commercial Wine Competition and the 2013 Critics Challenge), this also seems like a good opportunity to confirm or bust up several wine competition myths, since wine comps. in general are once again under attack in the media as “junk science” (can anyone, anywhere, name one single soul who has ever proffered wine competition judging as an actual scientific endeavor? Because I’d like to be first in line to kick that person in the gluteus max).

First, let’s tackle the wine comp. myths, because that will go a long way in explaining why some of the wines that won Best of Show in the newly-revamped CA State Fair comp. (now headed up by my friends and long-time wine writers Mike Dunne and Rick Kushman, both of whom have done yeomen’s work in bringing new levels of both fun and professionalism to the event)…

Warning… 1800+ word screed ahead… you have been warned!…

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