Get 1/2 off shipping when you buy Italian wine in quantities of 6 bottles or more with code "blake23"Wine Business Insider had an excellent story yesterday describing a new whiz-bang winemaking gizmo that, if I understand it correctly, uses heat and a vacuum chamber to remove the character of grapes.
The idea is that underripe grapes can have bell pepper characters removed. The resulting beverage will have a little higher alcohol because its sugars are concentrated.
It's not a reach to say it will be jammier. Ripe fruit + vacuum + heat + sugar = jam, right?
I guess I'm supposed to wring my hands about the future of wine. But it's telling that this machine is in Lodi, source of fine $7.99 reds, but a little challenged at the high end of quality. If somebody's drinking a $7.99 California appellation Cabernet, I don't think they care about native-yeast fermentation, and neither do I. Enjoy your beverage.
The question is, will high-end California winemakers soon see this as another way of getting more intense, concentrated, higher-octane, smoother $150 Cabernets?
Dan Berger recently reported in his newsletter that some high-end wineries are harvesting grapes overly ripe, fermenting them to dryness (can't do that with natural yeast), removing some of the alcohol through reverse osmosis for barrel aging, then adding the alcohol back in. It sounds like light-beer processing, but Americans love light beer.
My colleague Remy Charest did a great piece for Palate Press on natural wine in which he seems to intimate that the wine media cares a lot more about what goes on behind the winery doors than the public does. I think he's right, but that's no reason for us to stop talking about it. But I do have to keep this in perspective: I predict nobody will comment on this post who doesn't either write about wine or work in the wine industry. If you're a "civilian" and you care about this stuff, let me know.
Congratulations to Crushpad, which claims to make more than 1% of all commercial wine in the U.S. (Not by volume, by unique SKUs.)
For those who don't know Crushpad, it's a Napa-based business that allows anyone -- yes, you too -- to make small amounts of wine from quality grapes, with advice and support from their in-house pros. It has allowed folks to transition from making a few cases of Viognier for their friends to making a few dozen cases of commercial Viognier that they now have to figure out how to sell.
Crushpad has been responsible for 3,247 different labels filed with the US TTB. In 2010 alone, Crushpad received approval for 787 different wines. These are not just different labels on the same juice, but unique small-production wines.
It's part of the reason I could walk into a restaurant three blocks from me recently and not recognize a single label on the wine list -- that hadn't happened to me, I think, ever. Bully for Crushpad for not only letting a lot of people realize their expensive dreams, but for keeping even wine geeks on our toes.
But memo to Crushpad dreamers: I don't care if it cost you $30 to make that Monterey Viognier, I'm not paying $60 for it on the wine list. There's a reason they call it "economy of scale." Count on losing money until somebody -- like the folks below -- notices you.
I'll admit that, cravenly, when I got "The New Connoisseurs' Guidebook to California Wine & Wineries" by Charles E. Olken and Joseph Furstenthal and noticed there were four pages recommending wine blogs, I wondered why this one wasn't listed.
But then I started looking for some of my favorite wineries and discovered that I'm in excellent company.
Here are a few wineries not listed in the 456-page book:
A Donkey and Goat
Natural Process Alliance
Those are just a few that I thought to look for; I'm sure there are others. It's a pity because the book has nice, concise summaries of wineries' backgrounds, and I'd like to know more about some of the wineries above. You might note a common theme: many, but not all, are part of the "natural wine" movement, which to my mind makes them more, not less, attractive to "connoisseurs."
Hey, Charles and Joseph, try reading a few more blogs, you might learn something.