Is there anything more tedious than a social media post announcing the individual is doing the January Dryathlon (or Dry July). “Hey, everyone, I’m not drinking for the next 31 days…” which means please reply with praise. It’s as bad as the post “Feeling sad…”, which fishes for online sympathy. That’s an automatic unfollow in …
In the cold northern reaches of England, there is a town that many have travelled through on the east coast mainline but never visited. But as the leaves fall in the autumn of 2016, it is here that the seat of the vinous north has been established: Welcome to Vinterfell.
Having moved to Darlington recently, I have discovered …
Angry New Zealand vintners dumped tens of tonnes of rotting grapes at the entrance of Air New Zealand’s Auckland headquarters today* after the national carrier announced it would be serving just one supplier’s wine on its flights, leaving nearly 700 other wineries wondering what the hell they’d done wrong.
While the airline champions its “ …
Wine and urine – not a popular blend today. But in the Middle Ages, the two were often mixed to find out whether a woman was pregnant. It is said the colour change was the key to discovering if you were with child.
However, wine and pregnancy are viewed as less compatible today. Now 33 weeks …
Two weeks with no blog update. Disgraceful, you might be thinking. And you’d be right. Apologies.
If I can make excuses it’s because I’ve started a new job, working for wine-searcher.com. Currently a search engine to find wine and the best prices, it is launching an online wine magazine in April and I’ve joined the team. It currently has 1.5 million unique visitors a month with 60% of those visitors from the US of A. While we’re based in Auckland, New Zealand it’s going to have a global reach so we’ll be pulling a few strange shifts to make sure we don’t miss anything going on in Europe.
In the past fortnight, I have also been asked to be a panellist at Pinot Noir 2013 in Wellington, which is pretty exciting. I’ll be on a panel with hte likes of Lisa Perotti-Brown MW, Tim Atkin MW and Matt Kramer. Not bad for a girl from the Boro. I’ll have to practise my posh voice or no-one will understand my north-east accent
Is that rancid peanut butter in my wine?
No, it’s ladybird taint.
But ladybirds are so cute. How can they taste so bad?
These cheeky things love a damaged grape to feed upon and with cool climates getting warmer, these pests are moving into regions previously too cool for them. Kevin Ker of Brock University told the International Cool Climate Symposium, “It’s a hitch hiker that we really don’t like but it will find a way to spread.”
It has been found in the US, Argentina, the UK, Czech Republic, Italy and Denmark, and it is thought it is more widespread but no-one’s owning up.
When the ladybirds inadvertently get harvested along with the grapes they emit a methoxypyrazine that smells of rancid peanut butter or bell pepper. Not something you’d want in your glass.
What’s worse, it’s pretty potent – as little as 1200 beetles per tonne can taint the batch. The sensory threshold is just 1 part per trillion.
“One the wine has been made, cleaning up the wine is virtually impossible,” said Ker.
So what to do about these pesky ladybirds?
Brock University researchers have discovered that potassium metabisulphite, which is used as an antioxidant in the winery has been found to be relatively successful.
Ker added, “If used pre-harvest, the wines made from vines treated with potassium metabisulphite seemed to be fairly successful. It can be used pre harvest to reduce the number of lady beetles below the sensory threshhold levels.”
However, anything that’s added to the grapes so close to harvest could be an issue.
Journalists, me included, are told by our editors to provide readers with wine recommendations. What about telling our readers what not to drink, a la Trinny and Susannah’s What Not to Wear.
Over the past two weeks, I have been judging Metro magazine’s top 100 wines for summer with various industry members. While we hear a lot about award-winning New Zealand wines, there is certainly a lot of crap that has to be weeded out.
Our panel tasted more than 120 wines on day one and found just five worthy of anything as high as a silver medal. There were a lot of poorly made wines, and some of our panels’ notes read, ‘smells like a raw potato’, ‘really? Why did they bother?’, ‘alcoholic lolly water’ and ‘a bit ratty’, as in it smelled like a dead rat.
Surely readers should be warned of such dross to avoid having to drink raw potatoes and dead rat wines? I reckon more people would read the column too, instead of getting bored with the same old ‘these wines are great’ every week.
Alas I am no longer the current Louis Roederer Emerging Wine Writer of the Year. That’s what happens with annual awards. You’re soon so last year!
But congratulations to Gabby Savage, deputy editor at the Drinks Business taking this year’s crown. Well deserved. She came to Harpers magazine when I was features editor on a work experience placement. A few months later, a staff writing job came up at the Drinks Business and she got it. She was quickly promoted to deputy editor when Jane Parkinson left the team, and she’s had her nose to the grindstone since. Well done. Spend your winnings unwisely!
Nice to see a few international writers getting on the winner’s podium this year. The competition has been accused of being UK-centric so it’s good to see US writer and natural wine supporter, Alice Feiring becoming online columnist/blogger of the year, Max Allen wine wine book of the year for The Future Makers: Australian Wine for the 21st Century and fellow Australian Tyson Stelzer win the Champagne writer of the year for his Champagne Guide 2011 eBook.
The other winners were…
The Artistry of Wine Award
International Wine Website of the Year
Tim Atkin M.W. for timatkin.com
International Wine Publication of the Year
The World of Fine Wine
Regional Wine Writer of the Year
Liz Sagues for the Hampstead & Highgate Express
International Wine Columnist of the Year
Victoria Moore for articles from the Guardian/ the Telegraph
International Wine Feature Writer of the Year
Andrew Jefford for articles from The World of Fine Wine and Decanter
August is a quiet month for the wine industry – most of France, Italy and Spain go on holiday. Yet, there’s been plenty to write about this week at Decanter.com, where I’m acting as news and commissioning editor. So here’s a digest of the main news stories in the wine industry this week…
The Champenois have announced the yield for the 2011 vintage – 12,500kg – which is approximately 20% more than last year due to increased demand for bubbly. The Champagne houses wanted a higher yield with their sales up 13% last year but the growers weren’t so keen, and this was the compromise.
The Champagne region is now recovering from a blip during the economic crash of late 2008 and if sales continue on the upward curve it is now on, they’ll have a shortage. The industry is currently undertaking research to figures out a way to manage supply and demand. With a restricted area that is planted to bursting point, they will struggle to make more, so it will be interesting to see what solution they come up with.
In Burgundy, five grands crus vineyards are banning the use of machine harvesting from the coming vintage. I spoke to president of the Union of Burgundy Grands Crus, Louis-Michel Liger-Belair, during his holiday in Tuscany to ask him why they’d done this. There are 5% of the grands crus that use machines and it gives us a bad image. Hand harvesting does cost a bit more but the quality is much better,’ he said.
At the end of the week, Domaine de l’Arlot’s winemaker of 13 years has also left to establish his own domaine down in the Ardeche. More on that next week, I hope.
Over in the US, there have been acquisitions aplenty. At the start of the week, Fiji water billionaire, Stewart Resnick bought Chardonnay specialist Landmark Vineyards of Sonoma. It’s the second purchase for his company Roll Global in eight months.
Roll Global is one to watch, as is Alejandro Bulgheroni. While most magazines reported his acquisition of Renwood Vineyard from the company’s press release, there seemed to be more to this one. A 20-minute chat with Alejandro, revealed he was not only a charming businessman that has made his millions in oil and gas, he’s also got grand designs for a wine empire, aspiring to run six wineries, including what’s thought to be the world’s southernmost vineyard.
London rioters stormed Michelin-star restaurant The Ledbury at the start of the week, smashing windows and stealing personal items from customers. The Ledbury’s kitchen staff managed to chase away the rioters, armed with a variety of kitchen items. While it must have been terrifying for diners, The Ledbury offered them all Champagne to ease their anxiety.
Further restaurant news in London: Spanish chef Jose Pizarro will be opening a Cava bar at his new restaurant Pizarro. It is in Bermondsey Street – the same road as his newly-opened tapas and sherry bar. It should open in October. Should….
An article by former Decanter staffer, Olly Styles, on his no-holds barred website wine life has prompted me to write an article regarding his comments on the state of wine journalism.
In his column he says: “One thing is pretty damned clear however: wine writers lack balls. We all do. Perhaps it’s because the wine world is so small and any negative comments made about a wine invariably return to haunt the writer (this generally involves an importer shouting and gesticulating in your face during a trade show – and that’s only when they think your score of 17/20 was too harsh).”
First of all, do wine writers lack balls? While I hope the women do, the lack of opinion can be frightening. Regurgitating press releases and trying to please everyone was not part of good journalism last time I looked.
I have been told by several members of the New Zealand wine industry that I should not write critical things about the industry because it is small and I will get black balled. Hence why there are so many cheerleaders, afraid of being critical as they might not get flown to an all-expenses paid trip to a winery next year or God forbid, miss out on a free lunch. At a Jacob’s Creek launch, one writer told me she didn’t like the wines but had never been to the restaurant before and had come for the food! I almost choked on my canape.
In a recent column regarding lightweight bottles (or lack of them) in New Zealand, there was a backlash. Feathers were ruffled but the industry started to talk about the issue and consumers realised that heavy glass bottles might not be such a good idea.
I have also been told not to publish an article after interviewing a Kiwi winemaker and then being told that what I was told was ‘in winery confidence’. What did you think I was doing asking questions and writing down your answers? It certainly was not for the good of my health. There’s a thing called off the record which we journos respect but not if you freely tell us information on the record then back track.
Integrity is a key trait for journalists but I am not sure if it is universal. Recently, a New Zealand winery, who shall remain unnamed, sent samples for tasting and a member of the winery team emailed to say: “I’m sure x would be over the moon to have the editorial dedicated to her new range! Perhaps a wee wine bribe could be offered to ensure this?”
Members of the wine writing community need to be more professional if we are not to be tarred with one brush – and a bit more ballsy.