To get you to buy a bottle of champagne, M. Cole Chilton, the face who was always behind the counter of my neighborhood wine store in Brooklyn, would send out emails with elaborate descriptions: “I taste like sunshine, and I tell of brighter days ahead. I will make you forget that three people cheated on you last year. I will make you forget that you didn’t contribute anything to your 401(k). I will make you forget that dog sitting is not as easy as it sounds.”
Rarely have I gotten so much enjoyment from a newsletter, but also, rarely have I been so confused. Did I want to buy these wines that smelled like “Bing cherries burnt by a flaming walrus tusk and washed down with gulp of bitter Iron Goddess tea?” Yes, yes I did. Did I know what any of that meant or what to expect when I opened a bottle? God, no.
This is a common problem with the average wine consumer. In her new book, Cork Dork, writer and master sommelier Bianca Bosker says you can teach yourself to taste.
Since drinking is the only way we’re going to be able to deal with 2017, we figure we need to drink better. How? That’s the exact question we’re going to be regularly putting to power couple Jordan Salcito and Robert Bohr—two people so accomplished in the world of wine that the best thing we do to explain who they are is to tell you to follow them on Instagram and just sweat how well they drink and live. We’re starting with Robert, and some concise advice on how to get the bottle you actually want at a restaurant—and how restaurants can hold up their end of the bargain.
Uh oh: Eataly has reportedly been slapped with a fine by Italian authorities after mislabeling bottles of wine it sold in the country.
According to Italian site Il Fatto Quotidiano, Eataly has been fined $50,000 Euros by the country’s Antitrust Authority after it produced and sold wines with the country’s “Free Wine” label, which is meant to signify a wine which contains less than 50 mg/l of added sulfites.
On Monday, French farmers protesting at a border crossing between France and Spain ransacked five Spanish trucks attempting to transport wine into the country. As The Daily Telegraph reports, the angry farmers poured the equivalent of 90,000 bottles of Spanish wine down the drain and wrote the phrase “vin non conforme” (“non-compliant wine”) on the side of the trucks.
For the farmers, foreign wine means unfair competition for France’s local producers. They say that lower charges and less red tape allow Spanish and Italian vineyards to sell their product at a cheaper price than French winemakers. This may account for the recent spike in French imports of Spanish wine, which rose 40 percent between 2013 and 2014 to reach 580 million litres.
The wine market, according to Bell, is, if not stagnant, kind of boring. “Napa,” says the Bay Area native, “is a very cool region, but we’ve seen the same things from it over and over again.” After graduating from the viticulture and enology program at the University of California, Davis in 2012—yes, your math is right; she was under the drinking age for about three-quarters of her degree—Bell traveled, drank, and began to ponder a business that might expand the wine market into weirder, more interesting places.
You’re probably not the only one puzzled by tasting notes and wine lexicology. According to a new survey commissioned by online wine service taste4, 25 percent of people find shopping for wine an intimidating experience and 45 percent tend to stick to the same trusty Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay when choosing a bottle.
Questioning 2,000 wine drinkers, the survey also compiled a list of the top ten wine terms people have the most trouble understanding.
It makes for a pretty impenetrable read, with “vegetal,” “hollow,” and “herbaceous” taking the top three slots. Researchers found that less than 5 percent of people would use these terms to talk about wine—not surprising when they all sound like words better suited to describing your slimy ex-boyfriend/gran’s flowerbeds.
Speaking to The Daily Mail earlier this month, series producer Sophie Lanfear recalled how the hut the film crew had been staying in while filming in the Arctic region of Svalbard was ravaged by a wine-seeking polar bear.
According to Lanfear, the crew were out capturing footage of Arctic foxes and wolves when they came back to find the door hanging off its hinges and their food supplies, including biscuits, chocolate, fruit, and meat that had been stored in a metal trunk, gone.
When it comes to restaurant lingo, nothing is more perplexing than somm-speak.
While overhearing an expediter yell at a line cook in the middle of service can sound foreign to the uninitiated, the world of “soigne” has nothing on the strange, poetic language that sommeliers—and, consequently, wine writers—have adopted when talking about wine.
Because descriptions like “loamy forest floor” can sound ridiculous to casual wine drinkers, Maryse Chevriere—sommelier at Dominique Crenn’s Petit Crenn in San Francisco—decided to channel foofy wine slang into art. The result: Fresh Cut Garden Hose, an Instagram account that contains a series of cartoons inspired by the strangest of somm-speak.
It’s a hot October day in Northern California, and I’m roving a sea of endless green vineyards, which I’m sure haven’t felt much rain this summer. That’s when I notice the irrigation lines for the first time, then begin to see them everywhere. I imagine the wine industry to be a serious drain on California water resources, and wonder how they are navigating the drought.
It turns out they use less water than you might think. In fact, vines actually thrive in a water-stressed environment, and winemakers have been turning to technology to help them determine the perfect wine climate.
According to reports by UC Davis and the Pacific Institute, grapevines uses less applied water than many crops including alfalfa, almonds, pistachios, rice, and corn. But irrigation is not the only calculation when it comes to water consumption: to properly compare water use from one crop to another is difficult. Variables are heavily influenced by the precise location’s climate and soil characteristics. And if you get into calculating the value of each crop, there are jobs, taxes, and nutrition to consider. It’s a challenging debate. (See Which California Crops Are Worth the Water? Check for Yourself.)
Now, this is not exactly a widespread practice. In fact, only one US winery—Mira Winery in Napa Valley—has embarked on such a project to our knowledge. Still, the TTB is concerned about more than just crabs getting into your Merlot.
“Overpressure on bottle seals increases the likelihood of seepage of sea or ocean water into the product,” the TTB writes in its advisory. “As a result, variation in overpressure during tidal flows and storms would allow the bottles to ‘breathe,’ or exchange contents of the bottle with the sea or ocean, as the bottle tries to equilibrate its internal pressure to the external sea pressure, and chemical and biological contaminants in ocean water may contaminate the wine.”