The CORKZILLA publishing schedule will be sporadic at best through the holidays, with at least one final Wine and Tunes Pairing in the offing, and perhaps a couple of random music videos for your holiday enjoyment. Be safe where ever you are and let us know what you're drinking. Cheers!
American Wineries Invade Russia!: U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent signing of a bill to extend permanent normal trade relations with Russia has resulted in a loosening of tariffs on U.S. wines, according to this report. As a result of Russia’s move, tariffs will be lowered from 20 percent now to 12.5 percent by 2016, creating new opportunities for U.S. producers, the report said.
Ex-Employee Nabbed in Brunello Spill: An angry ex-employee was behind the recent crime that destroyed about $6 million worth of high-end Brunello di Montalcino at the Case Basse Winery in Italy, according to this thorough report from the Daily Beast online news website. The next probable vintage from Case Basse is likely 2018 as a result of the crime, according to the article.
Central Valley Vineyard Sells for $3 Million: A Madera County vineyard in the Central Valley of California specializing in Chardonnay grapes has been sold for more than $3 million, according to this report in the Central Valley Business Times. The 144-acre parcel garnered a per-planted-acre price of just less than $25,000.
DTC Reaches 40: Direct-to-consumer wine shipping now reaches 40 states in the U.S., according to this report, based on a recent review of 2012 progress by compliance firm ShipCompliant. The article also reviews progress and obstacles in various states as well as what to look for as we head toward 2013. New data also suggests some stellar growth in the DTC segment in November, with strong growth also in “flash” wine deal websites, according to Wines and Vines magazine. Good stuff.
Parkers Alters Advocate: With the news that Robert Parker will be selling a stake in his influential Wine Advocate wine-rating newsletter empire to Asian investors, an era of dominance in the industry has essentially ended, as posited by the New York Times. Due to changes over the past decade, the article says, Parker’s influence on wine and its regions has forever been altered, and so has the role of his impactful newsletter, which will be delivered online only going forward, according to the report. Another report said a Singapore-based investor, as well as two banks, are taking stakes in Parker’s enterprise. News of Parker’s changing role rippled through the wine world, according to this take on the news.
Naked Business Model: An interesting approach to the wine business has come to California after becoming a hit in the U.K. Nakedwines.com asks customers to invest $40 per month in the company as “angels” in order to access discounted wines made by well-known wine-makers, according to this report in the San Francisco Chronicle. The company recently expanded to Napa and Sonoma in California after garnering $40 million in sales last year, according to the report.
Mobile Wine Tracking App Gets $1 Million: an interesting new mobile application called Vivino will help wine drinkers track the bottles they drink, rate those vintages and share their favorites, according to this report in the TechCrunch technology blog. The company recently closed $1 million in venture capital funding.
The two founders of the CORKZILLA empire are from the east coast of the U.S., so the recent "superstorm" known as Hurricane Sandy that rocked New York and New Jersey, among other states, hit home. We hope you'll consider a donation to relief efforts here this holiday season. As well, we hope you enjoy this tidbit from Eric Clapton from the benefit concert on Dec. 12 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Great stuff.
Brunello Vandalism: Vandals raided a wine cellar in the Tuscan hills of Italy and released wine from six different vintages in barrels of the renowned Brunello di Montalcino, according to this report from Bloomberg. The target was the Case Basse winery (label at left), but no wine was stolen, only the valves opened, allowing the barrels holding the entire vintages of 2007-2012 to empty, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Where Did my Chateau Go?: A Bordeaux chateau originally scheduled to be renovated by its new owner was destroyed by mistake, according to this report. The chateau was not on property associated with growing wine, but is known in the area as an architectural landmark.
Garagiste Winemakers Gather in Paso: A second informal Garagiste Festival of small winemakers was held in Paso Robles, Calif. last month and this report provides details on just how the festival helped to promote small producers and the wine programs at nearly California Polytechnic University.
Mon Dieu!: The French just aren’t drinking wine like they used to, with national consumption at 30-year lows, according to Decanter magazine. The number of “regular drinkers” of wine has dropped sharply, according to the referenced study, released as part of the Vinitech wine industry trade show in Bordeaux.
Making the Connection: Attracting and retaining customers in an era of social media and increased competition was top of mind at a recent Sonoma County, Calif. wine conference, according to this Santa Rosa Press Democrat report. The upshot? Whether it’s Twitter or the telephone, reaching out to potential customers goes a long way toward retaining them as lifetime advocates for your brand.
By Ben Heskett
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – A recent tasting of Ferrari sparkling wines from the Trentino section of Italy heralded the official kick off of the 2012 holiday season, but it also highlighted something else – Italian sparkling wine has come a long way.
Italy’s contribution to sparkling wine is often associated with Prosecco or Asti (formerly known as “Asti Spumanti,” a Moscato-based sweeter sparkling wine), but Ferrari is changing this perception with its focus on high-end “Metodo Classico” sparkling wines. Ferrari Chairman Matteo Bruno Lunelli said during a luncheon discussion that Ferrari is prepared to make a serious commitment to export its products, admitted the brand has not been promoted outside of Italy thus far.
Lunelli stressed a few things that sparkling wine lovers may not always consider – Ferrari goes well with food and, when compared with the French champagne houses, offers the consumer an “affordable luxury” in the “Metodo Classico” style. He also underscored an interesting argument – with global temperatures rising, his winery is well-positioned versus French competitors that are experiencing warmer harvests. Ferrari’s vineyards rest at higher elevations. This is a perspective and competitive data point we’ll be watching as time goes on.
In tasting the wines, two stood out, based on our ongoing effort to incorporate price vs. performance in our recommendations. The Ferrari Brut NV is a dry, crisp sparkling wine option based on Chardonnay with some complexity, all for a value-oriented price of $25 or so. It’s aged at least two years. The Ferrari Rose NV and Ferrari Perle (we tasted the 2004 vintage) also offer a terrific experience for less than $40 (the Ferrari Perle Rose includes Pinot Noir and is priced at the $75 range).
The 2001 Guilio Ferrari Metodo Classico top-of-the-line offering, based on 100 percent Chardonnay from a single estate vineyard, has a price tag of around $100, which may scare off a good portion of bubbly buyers, but for those who have that kind of money to spend, the Guilio Ferrari provides a good value compared to its French competitors. It is only produced when the harvest is good enough, according to Lunelli. It has very interesting, layered flavors, with floral, white chocolate and marzipan notes, but remains crisp as well. It’s definitely a bottle to treat yourself to if you can find it.
The Bubbly Girl blog has another take on Lunelli’s recent visit here, which encompassed tastings across the city. You can read her Ferrari insights here.
Since we’re in the midst of the holiday season, I thought I’d share some other useful articles on champagnes and sparkling wines:
- The San Francisco Chronicle's Jon Bonne has a terrific overview of some bubbly options for the holidays here.
- Decanter magazine has a long list of bubbly suggestions, if you're undecided on where to turn for your sparkling wine fix. Read those here.
- Finally, Tim Fish of the Wine Spectator magazine offers some thoughts on holiday entertaining, as well as his magazine's bubbly options, in a recent post.
Treasury Meets Demand: Riding a significant wave of interest in high-end wines, Treasury Wine Estates is in the midst of a leasing push in the California’s Napa Valley and Australia’s Barossa Valley to keep requisite supply in the short-term, according to this Bloomberg report. The company has found that many vineyard owners don’t want to sell their properties, but are happy to enter into leasing contracts for the grapes at this time.
Going to Pot: Vineyards in California are facing the prospect of having their investments in solar panels stolen by marijuana growers who need the energy source to power indoor farms, according to this report. To avoid noticeable power consumption, the growers are using solar power, according to authorities.
U.S. Pinot Grigio Advocate Passes Away: Wine importer David Taub died of complications of kidney disease earlier this month after a long career in the industry. Taub is best known for introducing the Italian Pinot Grigio varietal to the United States under the brand name Cavit as part of his wine importing business, Palm Bay International. A great appreciation of his contributions can be found in the New York Times here. Taub was 72.
Chile’s “Value Wine” Trap: A recent post by Mike Veseth, of the Wine Economist blog and author of “Wine Wars,” offers some interesting insights on breaking out of the “value wine” label in the course of a Chilean wine tasting. Read his thoughts here.
The 'Zilla has been known to post cool videos after scouring the Interwebs for hours, burning hour after hour on obscure live footage. Thanks to the recent resurgence of the Rolling Stones, a lot of videos have come out in support of the band's live performances in London, UK and the New York area. The "official" videos on the band's website strangely all morph into their latest single when shared, but we found this freelance gem from the Mike Douglas Show:
Brunello for the Speaker: An interesting choice by recently re-elected U.S. President Barack Obama for House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner’s birthday, perhaps part of an olive branch strategy to get some work done during the President’s second term. Obama gave his sometime nemesis a 1997 Poggio Antico “Altero” Brunello, according to this Dr. Vino blog post. Our question - Why not stick to a domestic producer?
More CA Harvest Superlatives: With a huge 2012 grape harvest estimated to total 3.7 million tons, praise continues to rain down on this year’s vintage. This Shanken News Daily blog post reviews the favorable weather conditions that contributed to the great year, as well as its implications given smaller harvests in other parts of the world.
Hail Ruins Champagne Crop: The worst harvest in 40 years will impact the champagne industry this year due to hail storms and rampant wet weather, according to this report. Although this is bad news, it likely won’t be felt for some time, as champagnes age in the bottle before being ready for sale.
Smithsonian Celebrates Food and Wine: A new exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. celebrates the role that food and wine play at the American table, according to this Wines and Vines magazine report. In particular, the exhibit, which will run as long as two years, traces the growth of wine consumption in the U.S.
Wine and Tourism Go Together: A recent Wine Tourism Conference held in Santa Rosa, Calif. explored the potential partnerships between the hospitality industry and the wineries that tourists often seek out while on vacation in places such as Northern California. You can read a review of the program here.
Giving Thanks: Ridge Vineyards blogger Christopher Watkins always offers terrific insights on the winery’s website, and his entry for the Thanksgiving holiday is a great way for us to wrap up this week. Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy this great meditation on what he’s thankful for.
Online retailer Amazon has opened a direct-to-consumer store front to sell wine, promoting its new service as an intersection “where wine country selection meets the convenience of doorstep delivery” - It's third attempt to enter the online wine sales market. Amazon’s latest wrinkle is interesting, allowing wineries to handle the packing and shipping to the buyer. In this manner, the new site may offer a good way for smaller wineries to gain exposure in a crowded marketplace. Initially, Amazon will only include U.S. brands in its store. This is an interesting development to watch, given Amazon’s heft in the consumer marketplace and due to the fact that two prior attempts to sell wine fell flat. A good analysis of Amazon’s move can be found on the Wine Spectator magazine’s website.
To all of our readers, thanks for your patience as we try to get back on schedule here at CORKZILLA. A combination of family matters, travel, and a dose of good ol' work reality has forced us to maintain a sporadic publishing schedule recently. This will likely continue through the end of November, given the Thanksgiving Day holiday, but we hope to finish 2012 and start 2013 strong. Again, your readership is much appreciated. Cheers!