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What The New Generation Wants From A Wine (A View From The Argentina Wine Awards Global Seminar)

Vinted on April 18, 2013 under on the road, wine review

One of the interesting things to which the Wines of Argentina folks subject you as a judge in the Argentina Wine Awards (aside from tasting enough tannic Malbecs in one blind awards flight that you can no longer feel your gums, or taking you horse-wrangling in the Andes) is a seminar in which you’re one of the featured speakers.

For the 2013 AWAs, the seminar topic was “Wines for the Next Generation” (speaking largely about Millennials, in this case), and our group of international judges was asked to choose a wine that we felt represented what the next gen wine consumers are drinking in our respective markets. And so we sat on stage in panels of two or three judges, with an Argentine winemaker chairing the discussion as we talked about the wines, and our markets.

I want to tell you about each of the wines that my fellow judges and I picked (a task with which some of you helped me, by the way!). But before I do that, I want to tell you what the majority of our group of judges said about wines that appeal to Millennials.

And it’s easy to do, despite the fact that as judges we hailed from a somewhat dizzying array of backgrounds (new and traditional media, wine service, winemaking, and other fields), and despite the fact that as an ensemble we hailed from Italy, Brazil, the UK, Australia, Spain, Korea, China, Canada, Mexico, the U.S. and Switzerland. Not exactly people all cut from the same cloth – wine had brought us together, and the love of it was the only common denominator between we hailed (aside form us all being humans, I mean).

It’s easy to do because we almost all said exactly the same thing. When the last of us to speak at the seminar, UK Master Sommelier Laura Rhys, presented a summary slide titled “What The New Generation Wants From A Wine” it echoed so closely the previous sentiments of 90% of our collective speeches and presentations that I later asked her if she’d authored it on the fly after seeing the rest of us speak (only because that’s precisely what I would’ve done myself). “No!” she exclaimed, I think taking my question incorrectly at first as an accusation instead of an expression of how impressed I was by her slide deck. “I wrote that up ages ago!”

If accomplished professionals in an area of business, hailing from totally different backgrounds, separately converge to similar conclusions on a topic, then you probably ought to listen to what they have to say if you’re at all interested in that same business (in this case, selling vino)…

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Back From The Dead: Casca Wines Battles To Save Ramisco

Vinted on April 11, 2013 under elegant wines, on the road, wine industry events, wine review

It’s not often that you hear a winemaker say things like this about one of their wines:

“We don’t care if people like it or not; if not, I’ll drink it!”

And yet, that’s exactly what Casa Wines’ Helder Cunha said to me earlier this year in New York City, when I worked my way through a tasting of the 50 Great Wines of Portugal as selected by MW/MS Doug Frost. Cunha was talking about a wine he makes from the grape Ramisco; and he feels passionately about the wine, because its made from a grape that is a “dying variety, even in Portugal.”

It’s a rare grape, even in a country known for its small plantings of nearly-extinct grape varieties, and one of which few wine geeks have ever heard. But Cunha seems determined not to let Ramisco go gently into the dark night.

Casa Wines sources its Ramisco fifteen hectares of a vineyard on Portugal’s west coast, a cool and foggy area known as Colares on the southwestern edge of Lisboa. You could, apparently, just about spit into the ocean from the vineyard. These old vines, literally on the beach, aren’t even head-trained. Cunha knew he wouldn’t get much out of them, but viewed them as special and was determined not to let them get grubbed up even as Ramisco became a footnote in a country known for grape variety footnotes.

“Instead of ripping this up,” he told me, “we said, ‘let’s see what happens’…”

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Righting Wine Award Wrongs (Merced del Estero 2012 Mil Vientos Torrontes)

Vinted on April 4, 2013 under on the road, overachiever wines, wine review

Merced del Estero, in the über-sunny San Juan region of Argentina, has been tending vineyards under the care of the familia Rodriguez  for three generations, since 1897.

But it took me just one iteration of the annual

Argentina Wine Awards to help screw them up a little bit.

MdE was one of the producer visit stops for a group of about half of AWA judges that followed the awards judging, seminar and winners’ gala in February. It was also one of the most unassuming – twelve hectares of estate vineyards, west of the Tulum Valley, close enough to the Andes to be impacted by the hot sonda winds, and sitting about 700 meters above sea level (which sounds impressive, but that’s about average for a lot of fine wine grapegrowing in the high elevation dessert of Argentina).

The first thing that you notice about the Rodriguez family vineyards – if you’re a geek like me, I mean – is that many of the vines are trained in pergolas, reaching fairly high off the ground. The second thing you’ll notice is that the Bonarda (planned to be introduced to the MdE lineup this year) on the sunnier, exposed areas of the pergola are practically… raisins.

Which you’d resemble, too, if you were openly exposed to that punishing sun for as long as they are…

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Results Of The 2013 Argentina Wine Awards

Vinted on March 21, 2013 under on the road, wine industry events, wine review

Last month, I was away in Mendoza playing Team America as an International judge in the 2013 Argentina Wine Awards. The AWAs were followed by a seminar that centered on the topic of how to reach “next generation” (Millennial) wine consumers. Today, I’m going to focus on the Trophy results of the AWAs – but believe me, a lot more is coming on the seminar and the topic of Millennial wine drinkers (including thoughts on the wines that my co-judges believed appealed to those next gen drinkers) later.

I’ve two main takeaways from the 2013 AWAs, which are organized by Wines of Argentina (who footed the bill for my participation) and Hunt & Cody (a UK-based team consisting of MW Jane Hunt and Tina Cody):

1) I was self-conscious just to be in the same room as the rest of the judges, all of whom I felt outranked me in terms of tasting prowess, winemaking knowledge and industry accomplishments (I feel privileged to have made fast friends with many of them), and

2) If you try to taste thirteen Gold Medal winning Malbecs in only a few minutes and rank them in order of preference so that a Trophy winner can be determined, you will destroy your palate’s ability to taste anything (including coffee, tea, air, water and, I suspect, crude oil) for several minutes afterward.

The entire process of judging was incredibly fun (despite being shut up in a large conference room in the Diplomatic hotel while the sun was raging all Summer-style outside our windows), and enjoyed seeing the different tolerances we all had as tasters. For example, the UK judges putting up with more Brett (having ben schooled on Old World / Western European wines), the Chinese judge having a higher tolerance for oxidation (because so much international wine reaches her only after it’s been impacted by oxygen), the Argentine winemaking judges almost universally accepting high levels of VA (sought after to smooth out the mouthfeel of those tersely tannic Malbecs).

As for yours truly, receiving boatloads of California samples has taken its toll: I clearly had higher tolerances for oak influences and riper fruits. Sigh

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