Dance On A Volcano: Grapegrowing At The Edge Of Time At Clos de los Siete

Vinted on July 7, 2011 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, overachiever wines

“This…. this was all vineyards of Malbec…”

They say the Italian influence runs strong in Argentina, and nowhere does it look stronger than in the face of our driver, Carlos Tizio Mayer – Plump, Roman-nosed and topped with a wavy shock of grey hair, he could be any of a dozen Italian uncles plucked straight from of the memories of my youth growing up in Wilmington’s “Little Italy.”  He is driving with one hand, and waving to articulate his words with the other (as they saying goes, if you want to get an Italian to stop talking, hold down his hands).  He’s waving towards the South American urban sprawl passing through the view from my passenger-side window.

Even his cadence seems Italian – or, I should say eeeeee-TAL-haaaaahn – deliberate, slow, and almost bearing a sing-song quality.  I have plenty of time to consider the nuances, as Carlos is talking nearly non-stop during a two hour pickup truck ride (with me, uncomfortably, in the back “seat”) from downtown Mendoza to the small town of Vista Flores, home to the winemaking properties of Clos de los Siete, and the vineyards which Carlos maintains as their General Manager.

Carlos is holding court with his captive audience during our drive, but I’m only paying half attention.  For one, Argentina’s roads aren’t exactly conducive to legible pen-and-paper note-taking; for another, I’m having a hard time keeping my eyes off of the view to our west, where Tupungato, the massive Pleistocene-era statovolcano, is also holding court. Tupungato is a giant among giants, towering over most of its Andean neighbors in a stunning, unmoving testament to the immense pyroclastic forces that, an immense amount of time ago, poleaxed an equally-immense stretch of land between what is now Chile and Argentina.

While I stare out the window waiting for the morning sun to get high enough to change the snow-capped peaks from auburn to bright white, Carlos continues without pause his history lesson of Argentine grapegrowing.

“We had fifty thousand hectares, now, it’s about thirty thousand” he says.  The vineyard plantings around Mendoza gave way to sprawl in the 1980s, when local consumer tastes changed.  Domestic per capita wine consumption here in the last twenty-five years has decreased from eighty liters a year to “less than thirty.  The younger generation is drinking soda… and beer.”…

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Is It Time For Wine To Get The Like Button?

Vinted on July 6, 2011 binned in best of, commentary, going pro

We wine geeks review wines in all manner of differing ways.  There’s nearly as much variety in those review systems as there are in wine styles.  Points.  Stars.  In my case, grades and badges.

And we’re social about it, too – CellarTracker.com is pretty much the world’s largest wine review repository at this point (closing in on 2 million reviews at the time of this post), and for the most part it’s populated with ratings penned by people who are not professional wine critics; they just want to catalog – and share – their thoughts on their encounters with world’s most awesome beverage.

Seems to me the most social and dead-simplest wine review, though – one that even makes 140-character twitter reviews seem overly-verbose by comparison – would be the Like button.

Yes, I’m serious.  I think.

Of course, I’m talking about the thing that publicly alerts other Facebook users to the fact that enjoyed a post/status/photo/brand/etc. It might actually be more accurate to say that the Like button click means that you took a few seconds out of your busy day to tap on a button because other people also clicked on it, but that’s not the Like button’s fault (it’s more human nature’s fault).  You can lump Google’s recent foray into the social approval space – the +1 button – into the same camp, and feel free to use that interchangeably here whenever I mention the Like button (the concepts are, from what I can discern, pretty much identical – let people know publicly what you like in a social setting on-line). And the concept is now ubiquitous on the ‘global interwebs’: even blog comment systems have them for individual comments.  The Like button also refers people who buy, and when it does they buy more stuff. Only a matter of time before it takes over the wine world, right?

No points, ratings, or even words.  You dig the wine, you +1 it; you enjoy sipping that vino, you ‘Like’ it.  Done and dusted, end of discussion.

Or is it?…

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The PLCB’s Version Of “Innovation” (or “God Help Me, I’m A Wine Lover Living In PA!”)

Vinted on July 5, 2011 binned in commentary

The recent news of perpetually-hip grocery company Wegman’s pulling out of the troubled PA Liquor Control Board’s wine kiosk program has caused a bit of a stir in the wine world, if we take “stir” to mean “mostly sardonic snickering, followed by a glassy-eyed stare caused by the grim realization that we live in a universe where things like the inane PA wine kiosk program are actually allowed to happen in the first place.”

Welcome to my neck of the wine woods, folks!

It seems that current Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Chairman Patrick J. “PJ” Stapleton (the “PJ” is his addition, not mine) has had enough of the snickering part, though. On June 23rd, Philly.com posted an Op/Ed letter written by Stapleton in response to the criticism coming his way over the Wegman’s kiosk fiasco.

What I’d like to do is deconstruct PJ’s open letter, because it’s filled with enough holes that it could double as a riddling rack – not that us PA residents could actually fill that riddling rack with actual wine, mind you… at least not the wine that we want to order, since the state stores probably don’t carry that stuff… okay, whatever.

Anyway… Let’s take a walk together through the monopoly-infected mind of PJ Stapleton…

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