Sunday, August 30, 2020

Guest post: Don't write off the 2020 vintage, says Sonoma vintner Jake Bilbro

Jake Bilbro, author of this guest post and owner of Limerick Lane
I got a call last week from Limerick Lane winery owner Jake Bilbro, who is concerned that media coverage (including mine) about smoke is going to unfairly taint the reputation of the 2020 vintage. I offered Jake an opportunity to write a guest post. These are his words, lightly edited.

"2020 has been an unparalleled year in regards to challenges. We can relegate that to wine, the greater business world outside of wine, civil rights issues, Covid-19 pandemic, California wildfires, or just life in general.

In this environment there is, in my opinion, a stress level that doesn't seem to go away. Fuses slowly and subtly shorten and our communal irrational behavior intensifies. Some could argue that it evolves to the situation but I would say it augments because the evolution in question isn't a move in a positive direction. 

We jump to conclusions, our responses are heightened, things seem scarier. It is a natural reaction to accumulated prolonged stress.

Over the last couple of weeks, the unbelievable has happened... another fire and more crazy weather has hit our state. I have no interest in discussing the causes of this fire at the moment. My concern is how we react to it as a community. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Quiz: Guess which very popular wine has more residual sugar?

What's in the wines America is really drinking? I can't tell you about additives -- those aren't listed on the label, as the wine industry as a whole prefers secrecy, even as young consumers keep saying they want to know what's going in their bodies.

What I can tell you, thanks to the labs at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, is how much residual sugar is in some of the most popular wines in the United States.

To be clear, "residual sugar" isn't "added sugar." What it means is that the winery -- all of these are large commercial wine factories -- picks the grapes riper than they need to be, and then stops the fermentation before all of the sugar in these overripe grapes becomes alcohol. They leave in that sugar to please the sweet tooth of consumers, who often think they are buying "dry wine" because, unlike the EU, where wines must have under 9 g/l of RS to be considered "dry,"* the US has no standard for what "dry wine" actually is. Some of our "dry wines" are loaded with sugar, and not by accident, as sweetness sells.

* Europe has an exception for wines over 7 g/l Total Acidity, which isn't something you see often in US wines, and never in supermarket wines like these.

The winery then must add higher amounts of sulfites or other preservatives to the wine than would be needed if it were dry, in order to prevent the sugar in the wine from re-fermenting in the bottle. So wherever you find a high amount of RS, you will also find other things you might not want to drink.

I looked up the top 15 selling wine brands in the US in 2018, according to Wine Handbook 2019, and the top wines from the Wine & Spirits Restaurant poll, on the website of the LCBO, which tests all the wines sold in that Canadian province for a number of things, including residual sugar. Ontario doesn't carry all of these wines, notably excluding Franzia and Sutter Home, the No. 1 and No. 4 selling wines in the U.S. by volume.

I could just post the results, but let's have a little more fun. See if you can guess which wine has the most residual sugar (RS). Note that I didn't even use the big sugar bombs. If you want to avoid lots of RS, stay away from cheap Moscatos and cheap ros├ęs.

Which brings me to wine Twitter's current fixation, "clean wine." People on Twitter keep whining about how their handpicked estate vineyard biodynamic native-yeast Counoise is a way more natural product than "clean wine." Stipulated. But what do you think people who might be interested in "clean wine" have been drinking to this point? Take the quiz -- the answer to that question is all over it like marshmallows on sweet potatoes.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Introducing the "Mood: What Will We Drink on Nov. 3?" series

We'll all need a drink on Nov. 3, Election Night. It's the night the United States chooses between democracy and fascism. And to paraphrase Michael Jordan, fascists drink wine too.

The only question is what will we drink. Will it be the most delicious wine in the cellar -- or perhaps hemlock?

I'm going to run a regular series of Mood graphics to try to capture the shifting election dynamics. Because why not: this is the most terrifying summer of my lifetime, so we might as well try to capture the mood and amuse ourselves as we teeter on the brink.

Most of these I will just post on Twitter so you might want to follow me there if you aren't already.

If I get re-interested in Instagram (I do not trust its owner Facebook, so I took it off my phone), I might post some there as well.

Let's start off today with a few possible Nov. 3 beverage selections, based on polls of states that are at least somewhat purple:




Forget the usual stuff I put here to boost my social-media presence.
Do this: REGISTER TO VOTE! Do it now because the GOP will try to stop you.