Last week, I wondered aloud (on twitter) whether or not anyone out there cares if a winery uses cultured yeasts instead of wild yeasts.
The feedback from the twitterati is included below after the jump (if you chimed in already via twitter, your response may be listed for all of the 1WD faithful to see – don’t say I didn’t warn ya!).
The short (and grossly oversimplified) answers to the question, by the way, seem to be "Yes!" for wine geeks and "No, who cares as long as the juice tastes good!" for the majority of people, based on the twitter responses that I received.
The topic of wine yeasts, and why they seem to touch off a hot-button reaction among wine pros and the geekier of wine aficionados, requires a bit of a primer, because to most wine drinkers, this is gonna be some pretty esoteric shiz.
During my last trip to Napa, I stopped into Chimney Rock for some barrel samples tasting (that’s samples of wines from barrels, not tasting samples of barrels) and spent a few hours geeking out over all things wine-related with the affable Elizabeth Vianna (CM’s winemaker who last week was promoted to GM). Elizabeth is open, honest, and easy to get along with, and she’s not shy when it comes to expressing her opinions. And yet, when she was explaining the winemaking process behind each of Chimney Rock’s wines, she became almost apologetic when she mentioned that they – gasp! – inoculate their wines with cultured yeasts!
Imagine, the audacity! The HORROR!!!…
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- 07 Signorello Padrone (Napa Valley): Enormous & generous in its black & blue fruits, mocha, spices, & levels of sheer booziness. $125 B+ #
- NV Pol Roger Brut Reserve "White Foil" (Champagne): Sure it’s the real deal, but it might be just a tad *too* much of the real deal. $47 B+ #
- 06 Twisted Oak *%#&@! (Calaveras County): You’ll only be cursing when the bottle of this bright, peppery, spicy red is finally empty. $18 B #
- 10 Trivento Reserve Torrontes (Mendoza): Awww, he brought flowers… but he’s a little *too* sweet (& kinda rough around the edges). $11 C+ #
- 09 De Martino "Legado" Syrah (Choapa): Meatier, smokier and more chewy than a night out at your favorite Brazilian steakhouse. $14 B #
- 02 Achaval-Ferrer Quimera (Mendoza): Not much missing in this overachieving, savory, gorgeous, stunningly age-worthy Malbec blend. $40 A- #
- 09 Xumek Malbec (San Juan): A savory surprise with chalkiness & hints of earth & smoke. Big, black & searching for lots of beef. $16 B #
- 09 ZONDA Malbec/Syrah (San Juan): Great value if you like your reds explosively fruity. Any more in-yo-face & it would *be* yer face. $13 B- #
- 09 Xumek Chardonnay (San Juan): When the picnic weather warms up this refreshing & food-friendly Chard will be asking for basket space $16 B #
- 09 Scaggs Vineyard Rosé (Napa Valley): Small bottle, big berry flavor. Downright musical combo of acidic lift, flowers & orange pith. $25 B+ #
- 08 Scaggs Vineyard Mt. Veeder Montage (Napa Valley): Boz brings real soul to CA GSM. Meaty, leathery, spicy, juicy & impeccably made. $45 A- #
- 08 Susana Balbo Signature Malbec (Mendoza): To get more blueberry than this you’d need to be at the bottom of a Dannon yogurt cup. $25 B+ #
- 09 Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay (Sonoma County): Inside the cream & oak beats the green-peared heart of a cool-climate Chard. $20 B #
In the morning fog of Casablanca, a stone’s-throw from Santiago, Chile – provided that you could throw that stone over the enormous mountain range that divides Casablanca and the city, that is – the world feels very, very small. At least, it did to me on my recent S. American jaunt.
The world feels small despite the fact that those fog-covered vineyards (cooled by the effects of the mountains, which dramaticly reduce the amount of sunlight and heat compared to the city) are owned by Emiliana, a company that collectively farms the largest source of estate-grown organic wines in the world. It felt small despite the scale of how “all-in” Emiliana is when it comes to organic viticulture.
Part of the cozy feel comes from Emiliana’s Casablanca estate itself: home to wandering birds (especially the chickens, who eat the larvae of what are locally called “burrito spiders” but I took to be mites, who can damage vine roots), and alpaca (whose wool is sold by the vineyard workers). Part of the feel also comes from how the workers are treated here – they are trained and then help manufacture olive oils, hats, and various other native crafts that are sold in the off-season to help maintain their income when not working the vineyards (many of them also have named plots in the organic gardens near the vineyards, which helps supply them with healthy food).
But mostly the world felt small to me in Emiliana because they kept talking about Biodynamics, a topic that got very hot recently here on the virtual pages of 1WD. And they kept calling it… wait for it… the “science of Biodynamics.”
I can feel the collective shoulder-tightening ire of the wine geeks reading that last sentence.
And where did Emiliana get the BioD bug? From a visit by consulting winemaker Álvaro Espinoza Durán to Sonoma’s Benziger, where I visited in the not-too-distant past, and talked BioD with head honcho and BioD cheerleader Mike Benziger – and then interviewed BioD viticultural consultant Alan York (whose clients include Benziger and rocker Sting) as part of a more in-depth pro/con BioD debate.
And to further the far-away-but-close-to-home experience, I found the vinous results of this Biodynamic work to be pretty similar to those I’ve encountered elsewhere in the wine world… namely, inconsistent…
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I need to preface today’s announcement by saying I have no idea why I was picked as judge for the 2011 Georges Duboeuf Wine Book of the Year Award. The (most) ironic thing about my selection is that I’ve yet to publish a wine book. So… I’m as surprised as you are about the whole thing.
Anyway, here it is: I’ve been asked to be one of the four judges for the 2011 Georges Duboeuf Wine Book of the Year Award. And I accepted, because being a judge for this just seems f*cking cool, doesn’t it? Also, it’s a paying gig (god bless ‘em!).
If you’ve written a wine book this year, you can forget about hounding me incessantly and promising me signed Hines Ward jerseys in exchange for my vote: for one, I am (alas) not taking bribes; for another, I think I’d prefer a Troy Polamalu jersey now that I think about it; but most importantly, the deadline to enter books for consideration already passed. In fact, the submissions were culled down to a short-list of finalists before I ever saw any books. I’m poring over the seven books that made the finalist cut right now, and it’s stiff competition – there are some fantastic releases in the not-insignificantly-sized-and-weightier-than-expected pile of books sent to me to judge.
Before you ask, I’m holding off listing any of the books here just yet, becasue the finalists will be announced and notified in May, and the winner (c’mon, say it Charlie-Sheen-style! WINNER!!!) will be announced in May and presented with their award at Duboeuf’s annual Beaujolais Crus preview in New York on May 24, 2011.
For a sense of how well the award represents the best of wine publishing in any given year, past winners of the award include some downright fantastic tomes (several of which have been featured on these virtual pages in some way/shape/form): Randall Grahm’s Been Doon So Long, What To Drink With What You Eat by Andrew Dornenburg & Karen Page, Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible, Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine, and both Wine For Dummies and Champagne For Dummies. That’s a pretty impressive list.
I’m looking forward to torturing the poor souls who authored these books and constantly reminding them of the power I will wield over their work learning some new things about the wine world from the finalists, and then gnashing my teeth Old Testament style as I agonize over which one to pick for the award. A full write-up of my conclusions on each of the books, including my personal faves among them and details on how I voted, will be covered in gory detail right here after the awards are finalized and a winner is picked. Also, I now have extra copies of some of these books… which means those posts will also feature some giveaway action… Stay tuned…!