Tuesday, July 1, 2008



Shiraz-Grenache McLaren Vale 2006 (91 points, $13)

Polished, round and expressive. A gorgeous mouthful of ripe blackberry, plum, cherry and exotic spices, with hints of leather and brown sugar nibbling at the edge. The finish rolls on and on against superfine tannins. Drink now through 2016. 5,000 cases imported. From Australia.

Wine Spectator's editors have selected this wine as the best buy of the week.

In Argentina's grape-growing region, hail-control efforts raise doubts


As a threatening cloud looms on the horizon, Pedro Marchevsky lingers among the dense rows of ripening vines and prays it won't bring hail.
Luckily for him, Mother Nature is not the only one controlling weather anymore. Humans have intervened here also to reduce the damage caused by hail.

Hail, a major threat to grapes during growing season, has long been a part of weather history in Mendoza, heart of Argentina's wine country.
Despite being shaded and sheltered by the eastern slope of the Andes mountains, the province of Mendoza, which produces 70 percent of all Argentine wine, still needs stronger protection from intense storms. As the fifth-largest wine producer in the world, Argentina is willing to do almost anything to save its crops.

The anti-hail movement, founded in 1974, is Mendoza's response to the severe weather patterns that constantly endanger wine varieties like Malbec.
Before, says Eduardo Martín, director of Argentina's Agriculture and Climate Contingency Control Group, "Mendoza lost 10 percent of its annual cultivation each year as a result of hailstorms. Now it only loses 3 to 5 percent maximum."
It's an impressive achievement — and the way it's been accomplished is equally remarkable.

"Hailstorms used to be very localized and the hail itself was large," explains Marchevsky, co-owner of Mendoza's family-owned Dominio del Plata Winery. His blond hair blows in the relentless wind before settling on his forehead, his uneasiness at the thought of hail wrinkling his youthful face.
As he pops a Malbec grape into his mouth, his expression relaxes. "Luckily," he adds, sighing with relief, "the hail is now much smaller in size."

As a result, in Argentina this natural phenomenon no longer poses such a threat to the delicate vines. This transformation, often mistakenly attributed to climate change, is in fact a result of human intervention.
Cloud seeding, a project funded by the Mendoza province government, is the process of injecting chemicals into clouds to alter precipitation. This practice has been common in Mendoza for 30 years.

By dropping silver iodide particles, which have a similar crystalline structure to ice particles, into a cloud, says Martín, "we are able to modify its precipitation." The majority of the moisture within the cloud condenses to water droplets. For whatever does become solid, the result will be hail that is smaller, he says.
Although silver iodide is the main chemical in the fight against hail today in Mendoza, up until 1981 it was lead iodide. Upon realizing the contaminant effects of lead, silver became the new choice.

From 1978 to 1993 in Mendoza, firework-sized rockets were launched into the clouds containing the chemicals. In 1998 the effort switched to aircraft that fire a silver-iodide flare while passing through the cloud.
According to Martín, the silver iodide does not produce "one trace of contamination." Precipitation samples tested at a local university for silver never reached the minimum level of contamination, Martín assures.
Other scientists are not so sure. While many worry about the consequences of the silver on water and soil quality because it, like lead, is a heavy metal, others criticize the operational part of the program.

"The cloud seeding should be much more localized," says Manuel Pulido, physics lecturer at the Argentine National University of the Northeast. He criticizes the fight against hail for its lack of future weather projections, indicating that its proponents are blindly going into the fight.

"It's hard to believe that such a program doesn't have the essential tools for determining probable places and time of hail formation," adds Pulido. He claims that the cloud seeding is done without proper diagnostics, including a local predictive storm system. Without these figures, says Pulido, cloud seeding is done in areas that may not have even resulted in hail formation in the first place.
Despite such disapproval, the process of seeding clouds continues. However, there are new weapons in the fight against hail. Over the last decade, protective nets have been sprouting all across Argentine vineyards.

"Hail-protective nets are the most efficient way to combat the damage that in just minutes can destroy an entire harvest and a vineyard," says José Alberto Zuccardi, owner of Zuccardi Family Vineyard in Mendoza.
"Each year we invest in renovating and increasing the quantity of plots with the metallic screens," he explains.

But metallic nets, which are surprisingly similar to window screens, are not the only option. In Mendoza, plastic nets are much more common due to their more reasonable price. The plastic netting, which varies in color, is flexible and sheer to the touch but still provides the same benefit of protection against hail.
The nets hang loosely over the maturing vines and clusters of ripe, indigo grapes. The mesh patterns are so fine that they can obstruct sunlight, an initially worrisome side effect because sunlight is key for fruit-bearing vines.

Nonetheless, according to most wine industry experts, the amount of sunlight blocked by the nets, about 10 to 30 percent, is not enough to affect the grape-growing process.
For some, a little extra shade is even considered beneficial, especially in wine-producing regions with excess solar radiation — comparable to that found in the deserts of Southern Arizona.

As hailstorms have begun to have serious impacts on the Arizona wine industry in recent years, wine producers in the region are considering making a similar netting investment.
"The last three years have been half crops," says Kent Callaghan, owner of Elgin's Callaghan Vineyard. "We're seeing much more violent weather; (it's) been bizarre."
Just last year, Elgin experienced three hailstorms while the grapes were ripening. Callaghan, who can recall to the day when hailstorms have hit his vineyard explains, "Believe me, when you get hail, it's a major problem."

The increase in extreme weather patterns in Arizona is causing Callaghan to consider the installation of protective netting systems.
The experts he's consulted, he says, laughing, tell him to "get in contact with the Argentines."

Mia Mitchell

Voga wine launches in UK

UK wine agency Guy Anderson Wines has teamed up with Italian producer Enoitalia to launch what it describes as “a radical and stylish new brand with one of the most distinctive bottles on the market”.

Voga is being launched in the UK in a tall, cylindrical bottle that looks more like the packaging found in the perfume market than the traditional wine bottle.

Simon Bradbury, sales director for Italy at Guy Anderson Wines, said. “We believe bold innovation is key in order to attract new consumers and trade others up through the wine category. Voga has proved a massive hit across the world, so we are confident it will also excite plenty of interest in the UK.”

Voga was conceived to appeal to “style-conscious younger wine drinker”, between 21-35 years of age. It was first introduced into the USA in 2005, and more than 300,000 cases have been sold to date.

Voga is well established as a major brand in the competitive Pinot Grigio market where it is the fastest growing according to AC.

It is now present in around 40 markets worldwide and total sales have passed seven million bottles.

The range has recently been extended from the original Pinot Grigio IGT Delle Venezie and the Quattro red, featuring an unusual IGT Sicilia blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Pinot Noir.

New for 2008 are Voga “Rosa” pink and a distinctive Pinot Grigio sparkling.

The unique, tall cylindrical bottle has a cork closure complemented by a large, airtight twist cap, so the wine can be easily resealed after opening.

Mike Dennis

They’re going to kill French wine

The president of the Wine & Business Club and host of TV and radio shows for wine-lovers Alain Marty, says the greatest threat to national production of the drink comes from France itself.

You have spoken about a “crisis” in the French wine industry and you feel strongly about some changes in recent decades - like the 1991 Loi Evin
Yes. This law forbids alcohol advertising on television and strictly limits permitted radio broadcasting times and in the written press it is difficult - le Parisien and Les Echos were prosecuted for articles they wrote. Le Parisien had written about Champagne, saying that it was doing well - it wasn't an advert and wasn't paid for, but they were still found guilty.

The court said they should have included a health warning - but that only applies to adverts. Unbelievable.

Amazing that France should want to attack what is one of the things the country is best-known for
Yes, and economically it is very important - last year French wines and spirits had €9.3 billion in export sales [the highest ever].
There are 500,000 people working in wines and spirits. It is our fifth export resource.
They are trying to ruin it - as I said in my book Ils Vont Tuer le Vin Français (They Are Going to Kill French Wine). One thing you have to understand about French wine is there are 2% of French wines that are very profitable and do very well all over the world. I'm worried about the rest.

A recent industry report said Burgundies, Champagne and Cognac were doing very well, but Beaujolais and Languedoc-Roussillon are not
Yes - also a lot of Bordeaux, not the grands crus [vineyards listed in a prestigious categorisation system], they sell very well, but the others suffer. The whole of the South suffers, a small part of the Rhone Valley, a large part of Beaujolais, and Nantes and the Muscadet area.
We end up with two countries for wine - the France of the very rich and the France of the very poor.

Why is there this gap?
For the great wines there is a growing demand, notably from China and Russia. If you've got Petrus, for example, with 3,000 bottles a year - they can't increase the production so the price goes up.

It costs €500/bottle for a great Bordeaux - the prices have gone crazy. Those vineyards are doing very well, but the rest aren't, due to strong international competition.

In Ireland, for example, four years ago France was the biggest source of wine, now it is the fourth - the Californians, Chileans and Australians are before us.

We are not competitive on an international level - 60% of the world's wines are sold at €4. How can you make a good wine at that price, with the VAT, the producer's margin, the distributor's margin, the transport? Employing people is three times more expensive in France than in Chile.

Then there are other problems - for example, there are two kinds of wine: the AOC and the rest. In theory the AOCs are our best wines. In practice, a jury of local vineyard owners gets together, between mates, and one says “you say my wine's good and I'll say yours is good” - that means there are some AOC wines that aren't good. Take Saint-Emilion. They have some of the best wines in the world, and some of the worst.

We need to reform the system. A lot of people are choosing instead to make a vin de table or vin de pays, but which is good and pleases the consumers.
Another thing that's very French is the sin of arrogance - “since it's French wine and I'm making it, it must be good” - which is sometimes the case and sometimes not.

Also, on the commercial side, France has tended to focus on selling to easy markets and didn't notice that there were competitors coming up from the New World, making wines that are not bad, and are cheap, and with a consistent taste. It is going to be very hard for France to compete with the lowest-priced wines.

I think we need to focus more on premium products - and make sure they are always good. Sometimes winemakers prefer not to have the AOC so as to be able to put the names of grape varieties on the bottle. Wine is becoming more popular as an aperitif and people ask for a glass of Chardonnay, or Sauvignon or Pinot Noir. We weren't allowed to do it for the AOCs.

I can understand the thinking for the great wines, but for ordinary wines, it is wrong.

However we have recently been allowed to do it - 10 years too late. It's the same for wood chips - if you have a young, rather acidic, wine, with wood chips the Australians and Chilians and Californians give the wine a smoothness. We were strictly forbidden to do it for all wines.

Now, we have been allowed to do it - just as the fashion for this taste is ending. That shows how cumbersome the French system can be. Take the degree of alcohol - it's going up because of global warming. Wines were 11 or 12 degrees, now they are going up to 14, 15, 16.

The consumer will typically think a wine is better at 12 degrees than 14 - although it's not necessarily true. In the south some vineyard owners are developing a process for taking out alcohol. They are allowed to do it, but the regulating authorities check on them so closely that they have almost stopped it.

We have difficulty accepting innovation. For the great wines, I think we need to retain precise rules - but for the others complete liberty. It shocks me when the French have to ask Europe for subsidies because they can't sell their wine - even if it's part of our heritage. If some vines have to be pulled up, so be it.

It doesn't mean more can't be planted again one day. I would say we should give unsuccessful vineyard owners money to change careers rather than paying them to make bad wine.

Are there non-French wines that you like?
Certainly. I did a tasting recently with some great mature French and American wines and frankly the American ones were considered as good as the French, by a jury of French people.

Fortunately all our best wines are very expensive, as are theirs - well, the American ones are 20% cheaper, but whether you are talking €500 or €400, it's still a lot.

However at the bottom end, the difference between €3.50 or €4 is important. So, yes, you get good wines elsewhere - fortunately, because the global wine market is growing by 5 -10% a year, most notably in America, which is the world's biggest market in value of wine consumed.

Thanks to their pleasant, easy-to-drink wines, they are persuading people to change from beer. China, India and Russia all have growing demand. For the moment, France still drinks the most, even though consumption has halved in 30 years. On average we drink 55 litres per inhabitant per year, including the 40% who drink none.

A sommelier told me French people often believe they are wine experts just because they are French, whereas the British are more willing to learn.
There are two countries which are more knowledgeable about wine than us - Britain and Belgium. Many British people are good at choosing wines carefully, they really know their stuff.
Fortunately we have people who know wine well too, but a lot think they have a God-given knowledge when really they know nothing.
However that's changing and wine is fashionable.

Have you tried any British wines?
Yes, there are 200 English vineyards, and with global warming Britain may become very acceptable for wine production in 10 years - some champagne houses are thinking of investing there. The whites and sparkling wines are good. We can make a comparison with rugby and wine - the same people who annoy us in rugby are the ones who annoy us with their wine - England, New Zealand, Argentina and Australia.

Do you think Britons buying vineyards sometimes have rose-tinted expectations?
Sometimes they have the wrong idea at first - a vineyard is a complicated business, not a country house with a couple of vines instead of a lawn.
However I am favourable towards non-French people buying vineyards.

A lot sell after a few years - especially those without a lot of money, because it's expensive to run a vineyard - but many people come with good ideas and are meticulous, they learn the business and are really interested in what they are doing. I think that's great.

Can a bottle of wine really be worth €500?
When you get to those prices, it's a status symbol, a brand.
Whether it's good or not, is not the point. You wouldn't cut up a Louis Vuitton bag to see if it's made of good quality leather - for a Mouton Rothschild, a Latour, a Lafitte, it's the same.

But does it really taste better than one at, say €50?
No. This month I'm bringing out an annual wine guide - the first one written by consumers, ordinary wine lovers, who email me their scores - Le Guide des Grands Amateurs des Vins. I'd like to duplicate it around the world, notably in England.

I've got 250 tasters and had 1,000 wines scored. The famous American wine expert Robert Parker comes up with surprising descriptions like comparing the taste to ketchup. In the same way, each taster can give a personal view of what the wine tastes like to them, and whether they find it good or not. On the panel there are 40% non-French who live in France, including some English people.

What is your favourite wine?
I adore Côtes Rôties from the Rhône Valley - about 10 years old - and Saint-Estèphe from Bordeaux, especially Château Phélan-Ségur.
In whites, I like Collioures [Languedoc-Roussillon]. I'm not a big rosé fan. OK, I think Tavels are good. With fish or as an aperitif, rosé is fine. But I don't have an emotional attachment to it. It's a wine to drink with your mates - to spend about €10 on tops. However you can be surprised. I tried an expensive one recently - a Château d' Esclans which costs €60 the bottle - which I admit was very good.

What about wines that are good value for money?
Chinons blancs from the Loire, at about €5-6, are excellent. For reds - Côtes du Roussillon. For Bordeaux, the Côtes de Bourg or Côtes de Blaye are about €8-9.

You started your first business at 19?
Yes, I went to China for three years and secured the exclusive right to import certain French wines, spirits and perfumes. It was a great experience that taught me a lot. I came back in 1990. I launched the Wine & business Club in 1991.

Today I have 2,000 members in [three clubs in] Paris and it's Europe's leading network of wine-loving business leaders. In the Paris clubs it is necessary to be a company owner, but in my four provincial clubs we also have professionals.

They have to be sponsored to join and then they pay a subscription of €5,000 or €10,000 a year plus VAT [the first includes two places per monthly event, the second up to five]. In central Paris we meet at the Bristol and Pavilion Ledoyen, which have two and three Michelin stars respectively. I insist on tutoiement. [The practice of using the informal 'tu' to address each other].

Is that practice increasing in business circles?
It's limited, but it breaks down barriers. You don't want to share a bottle of wine while continuing to call each other “vous.”
Wine is about conviviality and sharing, going beyond the barrier of the “vous.”

And what is the wine element in the evenings?
We start with an economics talk. Then we have three vineyard owners and we spend an hour tasting wines with them.

Then there's a debate with two business guests before the meal where we have five dishes, with two wines with each, and each time a vineyard owner talks about the wines.
Philippe Faure-Brac, the world's best sommelier, hosts the wine side, with the vineyard owners. I host the business side.

You're talking about the Paris evenings?
Yes, the clubs at Reims, Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse are run by their own teams according to the same format.

I want to create 20 clubs in France by the end of 2009. I also want to open ones in Luxembourg, London [in 2009] Geneva, Brussels and why not Monaco? I have 12 people working for the business and we have a turnover of €2.8 million.

You also present radio and TV programmes
There was no programme about wine - people were worried about the advertising rules. After I wrote my book about wine, the boss of BFM said to me “why don't we launch one together?” In Vino BFM is an hour of wine news and discussions on Saturdays and repeated on Sundays. I have just launched the same concept on BFM television.
With these two ventures up-and-running I feel like I have done two important things for French wine.

What are your feelings about the future?
For those making top quality wines and selling them all over the world, it will be great. Some vineyards will go out of business, but I am optimistic because new ones will take their place, with new methods, and will develop the “made in France” label across the world, because it really gives you a good foot in the door.

We're in a period of change, but we have wonderful wine-producing territories, with such diversity that we can produce all the kinds of wine that are found around the world.


CFA Reveals Alcohol, Calories and Carbs in Top Selling Beer, Wine and Distilled Spirits Brands

Review Underscores Need for Government Action to Mandate Standardized and Complete Alcohol Label

WASHINGTON, June 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- While continuing to press the federal government to require standardized labeling information on all beer, wine and distilled spirits products, one of the nation's largest consumer organizations is taking action so Americans will have basic "alcohol facts" now.

For the 55 percent of adult Americans who drink alcoholic beverages, Consumer Federation of America developed Alcohol Facts, a side-by-side comparison of the alcohol, calorie and carbohydrate content per serving of the 26 top selling domestic and imported alcohol brands. Designed to help consumers follow the Dietary Guidelines' advice that men limit their consumption to two drinks a day and that women restrict their consumption to one drink per day, Alcohol Facts further explains what constitutes a "standard drink" -- 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof (40%) distilled spirits. According to the Dietary Guidelines, these amounts represent moderate drinking. Public health officials warn that consuming too much alcohol contributes to dependence, obesity and a range of diseases, such as liver cirrhosis and cancers of the upper gastrointestinal tract.

"Right now, consumers really have no way of knowing the most basic information about alcoholic beverages," said Chris Waldrop, Director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America. "It's time to end the confusion so consumers can make informed and responsible purchasing and consumption decisions. We're making information available today on some of the top selling brands, but the federal government needs to require standardized and complete alcohol labeling on all alcoholic beverages."

Categories, Brands Can Vary Significantly in Calories and Carbohydrate Content

Based on liquor industry sales data compiled by Adams Beverage Group, CFA's analysis focused on 26 top selling alcohol brands, comprising 13 beers and flavored malt beverages, 8 spirits products (vodka, rum, whiskey, gin and tequila), and 5 brands of wine. Using the standard serving size for each category, CFA found the alcohol per serving ranged from 0.42 fluid ounces to 0.70 fluid ounces depending upon the specific brand and type of alcoholic beverage. In contrast, calorie and carbohydrate content varied significantly among the categories and bands as follows:

Among spirits, calories per serving ranged from 86 calories for spiced rum to 120 calories for gin. The average (not including mixers) was 98 calories per serving;
For wines, calories per serving ranged from 105 calories for a merlot to 125 calories for a cabernet sauvignon. The average was 118 calories per serving;
The greatest variation in calories occurred among beers and flavored malt beverages. Light beers (5 brands) averaged 100 calories per serving, regular beers averaged 140 calories (5 brands) per serving, and the flavored malt beverages (3 brands) ranged from 190 calories per serving to 241 calories per serving;
Variations were greatest when analyzing carbohydrate levels. Compared to no carbohydrates in spirits, wines ranged from 0.8 grams per serving for chardonnay to 5.0 grams per serving for cabernet sauvignon. Among different beers and malt beverages, carbohydrates ranged from 3.2 grams per serving for light beer to 38 grams per serving for a flavored malt beverage.

Findings Are Result of Investigation of Top Selling Liquor Brands

To develop Alcohol Facts, CFA staff used sales data from Adams Beverage Group to identify the top selling domestic and imported liquor brands and then obtained detailed information about the alcohol content, the amount of alcohol per serving, the number of calories per serving, and the carbohydrates per serving for each product. Since the federal government does not require this information on the labels of most alcoholic beverages, CFA staff had to search for what was available on product websites and then wrote to the manufacturers to obtain the remaining details. CFA then verified its information by commissioning the food testing facility, Rtech Laboratories, to analyze three top selling beer, wine and distilled spirits brands and comparing the results against CFA's findings.

"Consumers should not have to search out information on website pages to figure out what is in their drink," Waldrop said. "The fact that this information wasn't readily available underscores why Americans need the same helpful and easily accessible labeling information on alcoholic beverages that is now required for conventional foods, dietary supplements, and nonprescription drugs."

To put the findings of its investigation into consumers' hands, CFA has summarized its Alcohol Facts comparison chart as a wall poster, which is available as a download through the CFA Web site. CFA also plans to distribute multiple copies to national and state consumer organizations, state departments of health, nutrition and public health organizations and alcohol-related organizations and agencies. In addition, CFA will provide free copies of the poster to anyone who wants one. Interested persons can contact Chris Waldrop at CFA.

About the Consumer Federation of America

Consumer Federation of America is a non-profit association of over 300 organizations, with a combined membership of over 50 million Americans. Since its founding in 1968, CFA has worked to advance the interest of American consumers through research, education and advocacy. CFA's Food Policy Institute was created in 1999 and engages in research, education and advocacy on food and agricultural policy, agricultural biotechnology, food safety and nutrition.

Setting the perfect temperature for a beer, glass of wine, coffee or even water

If you are enjoying your hand-crafted beer in a frosted mug you may be missing out on some of its best flavor. Experts agree many of our favorite beverages are not typically drunk at the right temperature. Most beer benefits from a serving temperature in the 40 to 50 degree range, far warmer than the typical refrigerator and not what you end up with when pouring into a frosted mug.

His friends may call him a snob, and waitresses may give him odd looks, but David Turley isn't about to drink a beer with chunks of ice floating in it.

But that's what can happen at restaurants that insist on serving his favorite beverage in icy mugs. And so Turley has no qualms about insisting upon another, unfrosted, glass.

"I'm pretty passionate about it," says Turley, a 50-year-old information technology worker from Fredericksburg, Va. "The first thing I look at in a restaurant is the beer menu. I consider it a food."

Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page are even more finicky.

The husband-wife authors of "What to Drink With What You Eat" have been known to whip out a pen-sized infrared thermometer to check the temperature of their wine before imbibing.

"Temperature is far more important than it typically gets credit as being when it comes to flavor," Dornenburg says.

"Twenty or even 10 degrees can make an enormous difference in how the exact same wine tastes. A wine that was thin and 'hot' at room temperature tastes much 'rounder' and fruitier at 5 or 10 degrees lower."

Even casual drinkers of wine know that white wines are served cooler than reds. But few realize the difference a few degrees can make, and not just with wine.

Here's what some beverage experts say about the optimum temperatures for a variety of drinks, and the most common mistakes people make.

Most beer is served too cold, says Sang Yoon, a beer sommelier, chef and owner of Father's Office, a restaurant in Santa Monica, Calif.
But with most mainstream beers -- the stuff produced by the major brand brewers -- cold is fine. "Those don't have a huge aroma profile, so you can drink 'em really cold and you're not missing out on anything," Yoon says.

Aromatic beers that are brewed with more ingredients -- pale ales for example --should be served around 40 F to 42 F, while beers with big flavor, such as Belgian ales, don't release their aromas until they hit about 50 F.

Wine often is served at the wrong temperature, says Natalie MacLean, editor of a wine newsletter and author of "Red, White and Drunk All Over," which explores how wine is made, marketed, matched with food and consumed.
"Too cold, and a wine's complexity and aromas are numbed; too hot, and it tastes alcoholic and flabby," she says.

The old advice about serving reds at "room temperature" comes from the days when the "room" in question was a drafty medieval castle, she says, not today's toasty, centrally heated homes.

Red wine should be served at about 60 F, though some light reds, such as Beaujolais, are better served cooler, she says. White wine should be chilled to about 55 F; the glass should feel cool but not ice-cold.

Dornenburg and Page drill down further, suggesting 40 F to 50 F for Champagne and other dry or sweet sparkling wines, 45 F to 55 F for dry whites and roses, and 55 F to 60 F for other white wines.

When in doubt, check the label: many bottles indicate the optimal serving temperature.

"We were recently tasting an Italian red that was unimpressive until we noticed that it was at room temperature and its label suggested 63 degrees. We chilled it and retasted it and voila! It made a far better impression," Page says.

There's a bit more leeway when it comes to hard liquor and mixed drinks. Tricia Crighton of the Gin and Vodka Association of Great Britain says gin- and vodka-based drinks generally are served chilled, usually on ice, to emphasize the fresh taste.
"The dry martini should be very cold and some bartenders keep bottles in the freezer to achieve this," she says. "Usually though, a few good sized ice cubes will chill down cocktails and mixed drinks sufficiently."

Though cocktails historically have been enjoyed well-chilled, a new generation of bar chefs and mixologists are creating more complex cocktails whose flavors are best enjoyed slightly warmer, Page and Dornenburg say.

"While very well-chilled cocktails will help to hide the sensation of heat that runs down your throat when drinking a high-alcohol cocktail, today's best-made cocktails are not overly alcoholic, so they can be enjoyed slightly less cold," says Dornenburg.

The ideal temperature for coffee goes beyond taste, says Ric Rhinehart, executive director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America.
A brewing temperature between 195 F and 205 F is essential to achieve what he calls the appropriate "chemistry in your cup," or the right mix of soluble solids that make coffee look, smell and taste like coffee.

"When you get significantly higher than that, you tend to get some more of the bitter flavor extracted," he says. "When you get lower than that, you leave behind some of the more pleasant, interesting flavors and aromas."

The most common mistake is serving coffee that's not hot enough, he says. Frequently, the culprit is a drip coffee maker that doesn't get the water hot enough and has too long of a brewing cycle.

"And then there are still a few people -- though there are very few and they are aging rapidly -- who still use percolators," he says. "Percolators are just devastatingly bad for coffee because they circulate already brewed coffee and they drive temperatures over 205 degrees. It's just a terrible way to make coffee."

There are telltale signs when a cup of black tea is served at below-optimum temperature: the liquid will look clear and there will be a brown ring around the bottom of the cup.
"That's when you know you really made a mistake. If you taste it, it's going to taste like hot water," says Joe Simrany, president of the Tea Association of the USA.

"The problem is you're not extracting all the flavor that tea has to offer," he says.

Near boiling water is required to extract the most flavor from black tea. After 3 minutes of steeping, the tea should be about 185 F, he says.

For white or green tea, cooler temperatures are required, around 165 F to 185 F.

Milk's optimum temperature -- 33 F to 35 F -- is a matter of both taste and safety, says Gary Wheelock of the New England Dairy Promotion Board.
A temperature below 39 F is essential to prevent spoilage. His organization came up with a little rhyme for supermarkets to remind them to keep milk cold: "Below 39, it's fine."

"You also want to keep it cold just from a taste standpoint," he says. "Most people absolutely prefer to drink really cold milk, myself included."

In the Pepsi vs. Coke debate, Pepsi comes out on top (of the temperature scale). A company spokeswoman says Pepsi is best consumed at 42 F, plus or minus 3 degrees. A spokesman for Coca-Cola says Coke's ideal temperature is 38 F.

With such a basic beverage, there's a lot of room for personal preferences. But there are some common mistakes, says Michael Mascha, author of "Fine Waters: A Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Most Distinctive Bottled Waters."
"Americans drink water way, way too cold," he says, noting that doing so numbs the tastebuds.

Still water is best served at around 55 F -- about the temperature at which it comes out of the ground -- rather than straight from the refrigerator, he says.

"Being a natural product, it's a good idea to drink it a natural temperature," he says.

With carbonated water, a slightly higher temperature mitigates the aggressiveness of large bubbles, he says, and lets the mineral content of the water come through.

Holly Ramer

First wine institute to be set up near Pune

Viticulture is facing severe skilled-labour crunch. To improve matters, the country's first ever wine institute will be set up in Narayangaon, around 80 kilometres north of Pune — a region considered as the hub of wine production in India.

Australia-based University of Adelaide and India's largest wine maker Champagne Indage have signed a memorandum of understanding to set up this institute — Indian Institute of Vine and Wine (IIVW) — on a 65-acre piece of land with an investment of Rs 100 crore.

Champagne Indage founder chairman Shamrao Chougule has promoted this concept. The institute will offer diploma, degree and post-graduate master's degree programme to its students.

Projections suggest that the Indian wine industry will require some 10,000 viticulturists, 5,000 winery operators, 1,000 wine makers, 2,500 wine marketing executives along with 500 wine experts over next five years.

"The growth potential for wine industry is extremely huge in India," says Chougule. "The University of Adelaide is considered to be the best institute in the field of viticulture education.

The university academicians will develop the syllabus for this institute and our aim is to provide wine-education of international standards. As the student will receive a degree or diploma from University of Adelaide, they can pick jobs across the world," adds Chougule.

The first batch will be enroled from June 2009 onwards. "The course will allow students to study for a couple of years in Australia-based campus of the Adelaide university, if they want to. Since IIVW is coming up near our own vineyard, students will get industrial exposure along with work experience at a fully equipped laboratory," he added.

Students will be enroled for a three-year diploma after Class10, for a four-year degree programme after Class 12 and for a two-year master's course after graduation. Specialisation in wine making, finance and wine marketing would be available according to the students' choice.

A wine maker can start his career with a salary between Rs 30,000 and 50,000 per month. One can draw over Rs 1.5 lakh per month based on experience.

Kalpana Pathak & Kaustubh Kulkarni

Elegant wine accessory designed to accelerate the traditional aeration process

Vinturi Distribution Continues to Expand

Wineries, Restaurants, and Stores Embrace Vinturi

CARLSBAD, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Exica, Inc. today announced that it has expanded the distribution of its signature product, the Vinturi wine aerator (www.vinturi.com). Now partnering with well-established retailers, restaurants, wineries, and distributors, Vinturi is now available nationwide.

“We are delighted that such well-established retailers are carrying the Vinturi and highly regarded restaurants are using the Vinturi with their wines,” explains Rio Sabadicci, inventor of Vinturi. “We continue to receive significant endorsements from leading wine aficionados and experts both nationally and internationally.”

Vinturi, a sleek, elegant wine accessory designed to accelerate the traditional aeration process, allows consumers to enjoy all the benefits of allowing a wine to breathe in the time it takes to pour a glass. Vinturi instantly delivers a better bouquet, enhanced flavors and smoother finish.

Users simply hold Vinturi over a glass and pour wine through it. Carefully designed to blend beautiful form with function, Vinturi applies Bernoulli’s principle which states that as the speed of a moving fluid increases, the pressure within the fluid decreases. When wine is poured through the Vinturi, its design creates an increase in the wine’s velocity and a decrease in its pressure. This pressure difference draws in air, which is mixed with wine, allowing wine to breathe instantly.

Vinturi is certified for use and sale at over 100 Napa and Sonoma winery tasting rooms including but not limited to: Acacia Vineyard, Alpha Omega Winery, Andretti Winery, Atalon Winery, Beaulieu Vineyard, Beringer, Bouchaine, Charles Krug, Cliff Lede Vineyards, Cline Cellars, Clos Pegase, Cosentino Winery, Domaine Carneros by Taittinger, Elan Vineyards, Envy Wines, Folie a Deux Napa Valley Winery, Freemark Abbey, Hope and Grace Wines, Kendall-Jackson, Landmark Vineyards, Markham Vineyards, Meridian, Merryvale, Moon Mountain Vineyard, Napa Cellars, Napa Wine Co., Provenance Vineyards, Peju Province Winery, Perry Creek, Regusci Winery, Revana Family Vineyard, Robert Mondavi Winery, Sterling Vineyards, St. Clement, Summers Estate Wines, and Trinchero Napa Valley.

“The Vinturi is one of the few wine products that does exactly what it claims to do,” says Rick Patton, Tasting Room Manager at Alpha Omega Winery in Napa Valley. “It softens the wine and releases the aroma as if the wine had been decanted for over an hour. We can’t keep it on the shelves. Our guests really respond to the Vinturi during our tastings and very often buy one at the end.”

New retailers include but are not limited to: Beverages and More, Charlie Palmer wine shops, Crate & Barrel, Dean and Deluca, Four Seasons Resort Aviara, Safeway, Sur La Table, Vino 100, WineStyles.

New restaurants using Vinturi with their wines include but are not limited to: Charlie Palmer Restaurants nationwide, Four Seasons Resort Aviara, Blackhawk Country Club, Plump Jack.

Pricing and availability

The suggested retail price is $39.95 and is available at www.vinturi.com.

High and low-resolution images are available at http://www.vinturi.com/graphics/

About Vinturi

Vinturi is a sleek, elegant wine accessory designed to speed up the aeration process with ease and convenience. The result is wine with the best possible flavor, aroma and finish released for consumers to savor. Vinturi inventor Rio Sabadicci collaborated with top industrial designers to develop this unique product that combines form and function to enhance the wine experience.

B. Napa's ``CRUSH'' Documentary Wins Top Award at Oenovideo Film Festival

SONOMA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--“CRUSH,” a documentary about the 2006 wine grape harvest, presented and sponsored by Don Sebastiani & Sons, won the top award for short films at the 2008 Oenovideo International Grape and Wine Film Festival in Gruissan, France.

“CRUSH” earned the Trophée Spécial for films less than 20 minutes in length. The short subject documentary was a collaboration between filmmaker Bret Lyman, his B. Napa Studio and Don Sebastiani & Sons, the Sonoma and Napa-based wine negociant. Its premiere was at the Cinema Epicuria—the 2007 Sonoma Valley Film Festival.

The film competed with 84 other wine documentaries from both France and the United States. A jury pared the field to 32 finalists and only 12 received awards. The competition featured films by both professionals and amateurs and included works of fiction, straight reporting, promotional films, commercials, research films, movies about grape-growing and winemaking techniques, environmental films and wine country tourism videos.

Lyman has produced several educational short films that are featured as Podcasts on the Don & Son’s web site (www.donandsons.com). “CRUSH” was conceived by Lyman, who wanted to capture a unique representation of the annual ritual of harvest. Working with the crew at Don Sebastiani & Sons, Lyman was able to film all the elements that compose the ceremony of harvest.

“His camera followed the hard work of the people behind the ritual,” said Donny Sebastiani, chief marketing officer for Don & Sons. “He filmed the family that ran the taco truck, the immigrant pickers who rose before the sun, and he really focused on our winemaker, Richard Bruno, who sacrifices time with his family every fall to meet the demands of the grape harvest. We were very proud to be involved in the production of this film, largely because we have great respect for the amount of work that goes into our final products and this film reflected that effort. We’re delighted that Bret received recognition for his excellent work.”

Lyman will receive the award on September 10 in a special ceremony at the French Senate building at the Palais du Luxembourg in Paris.

Don Sebastiani & Sons is a family-owned wine negociant firm specializing in the marketing of upscale varietal wines. Principals Don Sebastiani and sons, Donny and August, are third and fourth generation California vintners and merchants. The company is headquartered in Sonoma Valley and has a winery in the Napa Valley. Don Sebastiani & Sons’ fast-growing The Other Guys portfolio is currently expanding at an annual growth rate of 200%: the more established Three Loose Screws portfolio includes Impact Hot Brands Smoking Loon and Pepperwood Grove.

Cornell Study identifies inconsistencies in traditional Bordeaux wine classification

A test of Bordeaux wine rating services for fine vintages shows that the three most prominent authorities are consistent in their ratings. Thus, consumers can confidently rely on those ratings if they wish, according to a new wine classification study from Cornell's Center for Hospitality Research. At the same time, an examination of those modern-day ratings found that the existing French classification of Bordeaux wine chateaux, developed in 1855, is out of date.

Available from the center's website, the study, "An Analysis of Bordeaux Wine Ratings, 1970-2005: Implications for the Existing Classification of the Medoc and Graves," is written by the Cornell-based team of Gary M. Thompson, Stephen A. Mutkoski, Youngran Bae, Liliana Ielacqua, and Se Bum Oh. Bae, Ielacqua, and Oh are graduates of the Master of Management in Hospitality program at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration.

A key conclusion of the authors is that consumers of fine wines can rely on any of the three major wine rating systems – which are Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, Steven Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, and the Wine Spectator. “Certainly wine purchasers can rely on their own good judgment, but we found strong congruence among the ratings of these three services throughout the 339 combinations of vintage and chateau that we tested,” noted Thompson, who is a professor of operations management at Cornell. “However, because one rater is consistently higher than the others, consumers should not consider all equally-rated wines as being equally good, when those ratings are coming from different sources.”

Wine rating system for Chateaux has not aged well, according to new report

Mutkoski, who is Banfi Vintners Professor of Wine Education and Management, explained that the researchers' findings with regard to Bordeaux wine classifications for chateaux mean that consumers cannot rely entirely on those rankings. “In preparation for the 1855 World Exposition, the French established a five-rank classification for the chateaux, and those rankings, known as growths, have remained the same to this day,” he said. “Based on the wine scores that we analyzed, however, some chateaux have moved up in rank, while others have faded. While we doubt that the 1855 classification will be revised, market prices for these producers reflect the new standings. In fact, our findings are a tribute to those producers who have maintained or exceeded their classification in the past 150 years.”

The Bordeaux wine classification study specifies which chateaux have moved up in rank, based on the ratings from Parker, Tanzer, and Wine Spectator. As a final note for the hospitality industry, the authors point out that certain wine prices do not correspond perfectly with quality. Thus, sommeliers can – for instance – offer their customers an excellent wine at a relatively modest price.

Cornell's Center for Hospitality Research

Assemblymember Evans Sends Governor Legislation Helping Wine Lovers

Legislation sent to the Governor today by Assemblymember Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) will, if signed, codify existing consumer expectations on winery picnic areas and tasting rooms.

Sponsored by the Wine Institute, a trade association of over 1,000 California wineries and affiliated businesses, AB 2004 passed the State Legislature with unanimous support.

"Wineries have become social destinations," said Evans. "Many winery visitors want to take a break from the tasting room and enjoy a little scenery over a picnic with friends. However, current law is unclear about winery picnics when a bottle of wine from the tasting room goes into someone´s picnic basket. I hope the Governor supports the affirmative solution offered in this legislation."

"A person has the right to buy a bottle of wine that they have sampled in a winery tasting room," said Senator Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa), a co-author of the legislation. "It makes no sense to force them to wait until they get home before they can open it, particularly when many wineries offer picnic areas or beautiful landscapes that are very much part of the wine country experience."

AB 2004 allows winery patrons to consume wine on winery premises. This will be added to existing 02 (winery license) privileges and gives wineries the choice to pursue it or not as an option in their business plan. Amendments to the bill taken in the Senate stipulate that cities and counties may restrict but not eliminate winery license privileges in a manner consistent with local land use authority.

"Friends sharing a bottle of wine at winery picnic areas has become commonplace," said Evans. "Many winery customers would like to purchase a glass of wine too."

AB 2004 passed the Senate with a 35-0 vote on June 26th. Today, the Assembly concurred amendments taken in the Senate 76-0. It now moves to the Governor for his signature or veto. He will have 12 days to act on the legislation.

California Chronicle


Drink and drive: Prince Charles has converted his 38-year-old Aston Martin to run on bio-ethanol made from English wine

Prince Charles converts his beloved Aston Martin to a green machine... run on English wine

This is his 38-year-old Aston Martin, a 21st birthday present from the Queen!

It is certainly a vintage vehicle. And now Prince Charles's beloved Aston Martin DB6 is running on vintage too.

A nice little white from a vineyard in Wiltshire, to be precise.

As part of cutting his carbon footprint, the prince has converted the 38-year-old classic car - a 21st birthday present from the Queen - to run on 100 per cent bioethanol fuel distilled from surplus British wine.
Aides said this was partly due to the pattern of Royal trips set by the Foreign Office. He has now doubled the target to a 25 per cent fall in emissions by 2018.

Converting the Aston Martin played a small but symbolic role. The Prince's chief aide Sir Michael Peat said: 'Charles only travelled two or three hundred miles a year in the Aston but he wanted it to be environmentally friendly. It just happened that our bioethanol supplier makes the fuel from surplus English wine.'

The car - which is kept at Highgrove and clocks up just 300 miles a year - averages ten miles a gallon, the equivalent of 4.5 bottles of wine for every mile.

At £1.10 a litre, the bioethanol is only slightly cheaper than conventional petrol, but is estimated to produce 85 per cent less carbon dioxide.

The grapes used for Charles's fuel have already been fermented into wine on an English vineyard near Swindon, Wiltshire.

Its owners bottle all they can, but cannot produce more than their EU quota. Rather than destroy the excess, the vineyard now sells it to the Gloucestershire biofuels supplier Green Fuels, where it is distilled.

The green prince has also introduced a raft of environmentally-friendly measures at his homes, such as reed bed sewage systems and wood-chip boilers at Highgrove and Birkhall, his Scottish residence.

He even tries to have his cows fed on grass rather than grain - to cut their flatulence and minimise their emission of the greenhouse gas methane.

London, England


The Australian and UK wine markets remained healthy in the first quarter, with supply in line with demand

The 2008 grape harvest is complete in Australia and predicted to be 1.7 million tons vs. 1.5 million tons last year. The cost of grapes is up significantly due to the drought conditions, which forced growers to buy much more water than usual. Grape volumes are also high. High costs coupled with high volumes lend itself to a unique situation in Australia. As a result, Rob said there will not be an abundance of bulk wine this year.

Wine & Spirits Daily

Constellation Beats Expectations

Constellation reported better than expected first quarter earnings, with net sales benefiting from price increases in domestic and international markets and improved mix by acquiring brands like Clos du Bois and Wild Horse, while disposing of the lower-margin Almaden and Inglenook wines. In addition, the overlap of the U.S. distributor wine inventory reduction, which was completed in the first two quarters of 2008, provided additional operating leverage. Shares were up almost 6% in early morning trading.

U.S. WINE SHOWS STRONG MOMENTUM. For North America, branded wine organic net sales on a constant currency basis increased 28%.

"Our North America wine business turned in a strong performance. In the U.S., Robert Mondavi wines, Kim Crawford, Simi, Estancia and Franciscan all registered double-digit market growth for the first quarter," said Constellation ceo Rob Sands.

As Constellation premiumizes its wine business, value and premium wine mix has changed dramatically in IRI channels, said Rob. Value wine brands constitute 30% on a volume basis, while premium wines make up 70%. On a dollar basis, value wine is 15% and premium wine is 85%.

Growth in the U.S. premium wine business is very healthy, with dollar sales up 7% in the 12 week IRI data to May 18. The super-premium plus segment ($8 and above) grew 12% in dollar sales in the 12-week period, while total wine grew 5%.

All of Constellation's brands in the super-premium segment (including Robert Mondavi, Kim Crawford and Estancia) posted double digit market growth in the 12 weeks.

Wine & Spirits Daily

Bordeaux En Fleur

In June, Bordeaux's vineyards are fragrant with the aromas of vines in flower. This is a key time in the winemaking year, when the quality of the coming vintage may be determined months in advance of the harvest.
When spring has been free of weather-related problems such as an unusually-timed start to the growing season, the grape vine will produce small bunches of flowers around the beginning of the month. This is when pollination occurs, but visitors need not fear clouds of bees throughout the vineyards because the vine is self-pollinating. (Vine flowers have no nectar, so bees have no interest in them.)

The reason flowering is so important is that each pollinated flower will become a grape; each bunch of flowers will become a bunch of grapes. This offers an early clue to a vintage's quality because the better the flowering, the better the grapes--and the wine made from them.

In a couple of weeks, growers will stroll among their vines and look at how the newly-developing grape clusters are developing and how regular the berries are in size. This gives winemakers two important pieces of information: first, the potential size of the harvest in the fall; second, the probable date when picking will begin since it is an average of 100 days from the flowering to the harvest.

Each year in Bordeaux the flowering is celebrated with a major event in the region's social calendar: the Fête de la Fleur, or Flower Festival. This is a gala dinner organized by the Commanderie du Bontemps du Médoc et des Graves, the winemakers' fraternity for these two regions on Bordeaux's Left Bank. Here local châteaux owners and others in the local wine trade invite professionals from around the world to enjoy an evening of Bordeaux hospitality at its finest.

This has traditionally been a movable feast: since it was first staged 37 years ago, a different château in the Médoc or Graves--usually a classed growth--is chosen to host the event. From its origins as a simple garden party, the Fête has evolved into an elaborate affair as evidenced by the 1,500 invitees last year at Château Smith Haut Lafitte.

One of the evening's highlights is the Commanderie's induction ceremony. Each year scores of personalities from the world of wine, entertainment, politics and the arts are invited to don ermine robes and become honorary members of the fraternity.

Still, it all comes back to the vines. After winter's dormancy and the first shoots of early spring, the region's vineyards finally develop into elegant rows of vines stretching out to the horizon--the classic image of the Bordeaux landscape.

If you ever want to get an early line on the quality of a coming vintage, don't wait until October to see what the weather was like during picking; instead, look at how successful the flowering was in June. Better yet, come to Bordeaux and experience the season by visiting the region's vineyards and châteaux. Consider it a standing invitation.

D. Markham

The top 5 things to consider when planning a wine tour

French Wine Explorers E-Newsletter
Reprint Authorization Acquired

1-Time of year: September is a beautiful time to go to see the harvest, but can be challenging get certain estate appointments. July is a good time to go and get estate visits before August, typically vacation time for some, and September, during harvest. If you are keen on going in September, join a small group tour where the planning has been well established in advance to assure quality visits.

2-Don't drink and drive: Even if you spit during your wine tastings, it is not advisable to drive while you are tasting. Leave that to a pro and take full advantage that a driver will get you where you need to be on time, and fill the day out with useful information about the region and its wines. Relax and enjoy.

3-Be Adventurous: Try an appellation or region you are less familiar with and broaden your knowledge and appreciation for the region. Not sure which appellation that may be? A quality wine tour provider can steer you in the right direction.

4-Less is more: In France, the visits are very thorough, so limit yourself to knowing that it's quality over quantiy when it comes to tours and tastings

5-Timing: Where you stay is as important as the estates you visit. If you haven't been to the hotel or chateau you are considering, don't assume what you see on the website is what you get. Check with your wine tour expert for real time information.

One last tip- Go with a professional wine tour planner-one that knows the region, how best to get there, its quirks, and the best estates to visit based on what wines you prefer to help make the best use of your time.

Touring Bordeaux

K. Merchant and friends at Chateau Pichon Longueville, their home for 6 days

I feel like a princess. Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron is an exquisite property, and my petit group has private use of the entire place during this week of wine touring. Each room is beautifully appointed, having been recently restored to its original 1851 glory. My room and en suite bath is as big as entire floor of my house!

The food and wine extravaganza began last night with Champagne -- yes, the real thing, a 1993 Laurent Perrier -- and a four course meal, each paired with a different wine. The meal was a classic fish, meat, cheese, dessert sequence. With fish, we relished an interesting Sauterne, mostly sauvignon blanc instead of semillon. Everyone loved it. One of the two reds was a 1995 cab (blend, of course) made right here at Chateau Pichon. For dessert we had a 40 year old port that was divine. (For my chocaholic friends, the actual dessert was a dark choc/fresh raspberry concoction. I shared it in spirit with you.)

Today we visited two First Growth vineyards in Pauillac appellation -- one from the original 1855 classification (Chateau Latour, which I can see from my bedroom window) and the only winery ever to be "promoted" to First Growth (Mouton Rothschild in 1973). There are only five total prestigious 1st growths, and I will be visiting all of them this week. At each winery we tasted three small samples of new wines, either ready for bottling (2006) or second fermentation in new oak (2007), from their Grand Vins and second/third wines.

In between these two large, sophisticated wineries we visited 2nd growth Leoville de Las Cases in the Saint Julien appellation. It is much more rustic and approachable. In fact, the cellar master gave us our tour and tasting. We tasted 6 wines, all 2004s and all predominantly merlot (but also blended), from three different properties owned by this family.

This evening we will once again dine at the lovely Chateau Pichon, but this occasion will be different because author Dewey Markham will join us to discuss his book on the 1855 classification system. (I know that sounds a little dry, but this system has defined quality wines for more than 150 years!)

Cheers, K.