Articles Tagged wine news

Pence In The Sta. Rita Hills Cross Hairs, But How’s The Wine?

Vinted on May 2, 2013 binned in overachiever wines, wine news, wine review

Central Coast-ish California’s Pence Ranch, and its charismatic owner, Blair Pence (who, with toothy grin and cowboy hat looks every bit the part of a rancher) have been making the wine scene headlines so far in 2013, and not in a good way.

To bring you up to speed on what has become the U.S. wine biz equivalent of tossing flaming poop bags about AVA boundaries, let’s quote a few spots and then we can talk about what no one else seems to be getting at in this battle, which is Pence’s wine itself.

To the tape, from Independent.com (emphasis mine):

Vintner Blair Pence filed with the federal government this February to expand the borders of the increasingly renowned Sta. Rita Hills wine-grape-growing appellation to the east to include his vineyard, which he planted in 2006 outside of Buellton… USC-educated developer-turned-farmer has been dealing with the wrath of his winemaking neighbors, and their terroir tussle is now making headlines in the international wine press. “If you look at the history, you look at the geology, you look at the weather, it belongs in the appellation,” said Pence, who built Los Angeles office buildings and industrial parks before growing grapes, ranching cattle, and raising avocados. “The science is so clear-cut.”

And the opposition summary, via WineSpectator.com (emphasis mine):

The board of the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrower Alliance (SRHWA) disagreed with Pence’s arguments, however, and voted unanimously to oppose expansion. Wes Hagen of Clos Pepe, the original petitioner who crafted the AVA boundaries, is against the expansion, saying the new border would extend into a distinct landmass called the Buellton Flats, which has a north-south orientation, while the current AVA has an east-west orientation. According to Hagen, the areas Pence wants included also lack the maritime influence that growers insist make the region ideal for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. “We’ve spent $25 million and 20 years promoting the area,” said Hagen. “We don’t want to be catty, but we want to protect what we’ve built.”

Reaction has not been kind, probably because this seems like a bit of a money grab for Pence, who stands to gain higher grape prices if his AVA expansion bid is successful. Since I visited Pence Ranch and talked about this with Blair Pence last August, I thought I’d chime in on the debate/debacle; mostly because I find it very odd that little has been said about whether or not the Pence Ranch wine itself seems to fit what one might call the Sta. Rita Hills Pinot profile…

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What’s Next, Le Bastard Surpoids? (Consumers Might Pay More For Difficult-To-Pronounce Wines, So NPR Thinks You’re A D-Bag)

Vinted on July 31, 2012 binned in best of, commentary, wine news

First, let me say that I normally love NPR. In fact, I consider not having an opportunity to listen to NPR news during the morning commute as the thing that I miss the most about having a traditional 9-to-5 job. But when NPR runs a story titled “Fancy Names Can Fool Wine Geeks Into Paying More For A Bottle,” I cringe.

NPR’s story quotes Christopher Tracy, Channing Daughters Winery’s talented winemaker (for more on Tracy and his wines, check out the coverage of my 2009 trip to LI wine country), but only as a setup for introducing “difficult for Americans to pronounce” grape varieties like Blaufrankisch, and en route to covering the results of a marketing study performed earlier this year by Antonia Mantonakis, a wine researcher at Brock University in Ontario. As reported by NPR:

"Participants not only reported liking the taste of the wine better if it was associated with a difficult to pronounce winery name. But they also reported about a $2 increase in willingness to pay," Mantonakis says.

What’s more, apparently the more that test subjects knew about wine (or at least told Mantonakis they knew about it), “the more easily they got duped into thinking difficult wine names equaled pricier wines.” In other words, we expect Fat Bastard to be inexpensive, but not Le Bastard Surpoids.

I love NPR, but I hate this kind of reporting. I hate it because while there might indeed be meat on the bones in Mantonakis’s study for marketers to explore, the media angle instead is to jump on the all-wine-pros-are-douchebags bandwagon, and throw on non-pro wine geeks as well.

So you know what? Screw NPR for doing that. Screw them, because we wine geeks are not the problem; if a few of us thought fancy names equated to higher prices, than so what? Shouldn’t we be excited that the wines were actually less expensive than we thought? We need more people being excited about wine and getting all hot-and-bothered over those fancy names, not less. The media implication in NPR’s coverage that those wines are somehow bad or cheap and therefore shouldn’t be on the radar of wine geeks is itself insulting to the producers, regions, and wines involved (let alone to the people). And I won’t even get started on the “what constitutes ‘wine geek’ from this study?” arguments.

If you think I’m over-reacting, I invite you to watch coverage of Mantonakis’ experiment and then listen to the NPR coverage that followed, both embedded below after the jump, and then tell me if you think I got it wrong. In the meantime, I’ll go back to my temporary NPR boycott…

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Are EU Imports Poised To Kick U.S. Wine Biz Butt In The Near Future?

Vinted on April 24, 2012 binned in wine news

Last week, Silicon Valley Bank and Vintank teamed up to present a rather well-researched and thorough look at what the wine industry has in store for itself in the near future.

Predictions are, of course, only for the exceedingly brave (or exceedingly foolish – or both), since they’re ripe for the 20/20 vision sniper cross hairs of retrospective perspective later. But I tend to admire the cojones it takes to put your thoughts out on a public limb, opening it up for those who would use them as a perch for even greater ideas, not to mention as fodder at which any thick-skulled woodpeckers can take pot shots. An example: the bold predictions that Vintank made about the wine biz for 2011, many of which didn’t materialize in 2011 but are starting to show signs of instantiating themselves in early 2012 – in fact, the SVB report bolsters several of those bold Vintank 2011 predictions (the growth of direct wine sales, for example, in what they term “the 5th Column), for those who have more pachyderm-like memories (and are keeping score). Vintank: 1; Woodpeckers: 0?

You can download the report, its summary slides, and an even higher-level infographic summary at SVBs website.

While the results (understandably, given the source) have a serious CA-focus, there are tidbits therein that the worldwide wine industry can take away from it.

For example, U.S. wine producers may be set for shorter supply, increased prices, and a big challenge from EU country wine imports.

Not exactly good news for the U.S. wine biz…

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Do Wine Experts Taste Differently Than You (And Does It Matter)?

Vinted on March 14, 2012 binned in best of, commentary, wine news, wine tasting

I don’t mean here that if you lick a wine expert (something I do not recommend, unless you happen to be Heidi Klum and the wine expert you plan on tasting is me) they taste like chocolate-covered hazelnut while you taste like a dog coming out of the rain.

I mean, are wine experts hard-wired to taste wine in a fundamentally different way than you are, physiologically?

Sound crazy? Well, crazy or not, that’s the conclusion suggested by results published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture, from a study performed by John Hayes (assistant professor of food science) and others at (WE ARE!) Penn State. Even NPR jumped in on this action despite the study results not having been repeated yet (see “Most Of Us Just Can’t Taste The Nuances In High-Priced Wines” – not that they’d stoop to using an incendiary title that insinuates the conclusions as unalterable scientific fact or anything gimmicky like that…).

The coverage of the study at PSU.edu is pretty sparse, and open to some rather gaping critical holes, but assuming the results hold up to further scientific scrutiny they will bolster the controversial position taken by Master of Wine Tim Hanni (and others) that individually we perceive wines differently based on a number of factors, some of them physical.

To the tape, quoting Mr. Hayes (emphasis mine):

“While learning plays a role in their expertise and other factors matter, such as how they communicate their thoughts and opinions on wines, some wine experts may have an innate advantage in learning to discern small differences in wine.”

The most interesting thing about this study? For my money, it’s the further implication that reviews from wine experts are actually even less helpful to the general public than previously thought

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