Record Wine Exports for California

Last year saw a hike in wine exports like the US has never seen before. Thanks to a budding market in Asian countries as well as a still growing recognition for American made wine have combined with a higher domestic consumption to put a bit of a strain on California’s wine makers and a bit of a price jump on American wine.                 Not long ago, wine from California was looked upon as low quality and lacking in art. This is a drastic change from 2011 where it is being elevated to something closer to a luxury item.  After winning over some well-known wine lovers, Californian wine was given a chance to be ranked and compared to French wine, where it has since flourished.

                A growing middle class in China is also a key player in this last year’s 123% demand from 2010. That is almost a quarter increase from the previous year. To the growing Asian market California wine is held as something of a gold standard and is sought after as a show of new found wealth. Picking some homegrown wine for those three bottle wine bags may be a little more expensive in years to come thanks to this striking increase in export demand, but many fans believe wine makers will keep a soft spot for loyal, local customers.

Robert Finigan

The time of a great wine critic has ended on the first of this month with the passing on of Robert Finigan, who has been a prominent figure among wine critics since the 1970s when he broke into the wine world with honest reviews of both fine European and emerging Californian wines.  His opinions were highly valued during his life, especially his tastings of pinot noir and burgundy.                  While later in his career he became interested in being a food critic, he was always an influential wine critic that was brutally honest in his expectations of a wine.  He was an advocate for the consumers too with his praises of wine in all forms, great and small, and looking for the good in any price range. 

                Born in 1943 Robert found his calling to wine and the culinary in college at Harvard.  Thankfully for the world of wine, he became interested in because of his roommates’ associations to wine.  His reviews will be valued for years and years to come and influence selections in wine totes, even if he won’t be around to write more of them. He is survived by his wife and sister, who just like us will miss him greatly. 

Small Harvest for California This Year

When knowledgeable wine drinkers talk about “a good year” they may still be talking about this year despite California’s meager grape harvest.  This is because even though yields are at the lowest in years, the weather has been delightfully mild. While a gauntlet of bad luck gave the grapes a hard start, what did survive got a mild growing season that promises low, stable sugar levels. Heat and cold spikes make the plants push sugar into their fruit, a lack of excessive sugars gives winemakers the green light to let the flavors develop.                 This season’s wine is going to be a considered a really sought after. Years like this may make it hard to find wine made from thin skinned grapes like Viognier may be in short supply but the wine that is for sale is expected to be quickly taken home in six bottle wine bags.  This may be a good year to invest in a bottle to age for a few years. The anticipated quality of this year’s wine will mean a slightly higher price on everything, but a chance too for some extraordinarily deep and developed flavors in the wine.  

Canadian Wine

Many are surprised to find that Canada has a thriving wine producing region. But indeed it does have a handful of suburb vineyards that are trying very hard to make a name for Canadian wine. Some of the regions known within Canada for their wine are Okanagan Valley, the Niagara Peninsula and Nova Scotia just to name a variety of them.                 For those looking to put some Canadian wine in those wine carriers, a trip up North may be the easiest way to really experience the wine of Canada. Maybe Nova Scotia, the coldest wine region in the world, may be a bit of stretch for a wine tour vacation; try the Niagara Peninsula. The Niagara Peninsula grows over three quarters of the grapes in Canada and has a variety of climates often compared to the Loire valley of France. They grow chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot noir in this area as well as the classic ice wine that more people link to Canada than other wines.  Not to mention this region is known for its pleasant villages and country inns make it feel more like a normal wine region to vacationers. Giving a new wine region a try makes for not only a unique experience but maybe a sneak peek into some of the best upcoming vineyards. 

Worried Growing Season

This growing season has been hard for grape growers, who are hoping for as much heat as possible before summer fades into the past. The late spring and poor weather in many growing regions means that many Northern western locations are still trying to ripen grapes on the vine, but dropping temperatures are forcing them to think about the worst possible outcome. There is little that can be done by workers at vineyards except trim back the leaves; this exposes the grapes to more sunlight.                 This trouble ripening the grapes though doesn’t mean that the 2011 offerings are going to be a flop; it is more likely to mean slightly less sweet whites from the North and little else. Ripening the grapes properly, after all, develops the sugars more.  But the thing about vintners is that something magical could still happen with the less than supreme grapes to make wine fans eager to put them in three bottle wine carriers. Proper manipulation to the grapes could still create a wonderful vintage. So while wine makers are worried at the moment there is always a chance in the wine industry for unusual things to happen. Worse years have produced still wonderful wine.

Balancing Act

Studies have shown over and over again that low to moderate wine consumption leads to lower weight gain as one ages, but exactly why remains a bit of a mystery. It is believed to be a combination of factors that the right balance has to be achieved to benefit fully from them.  These factors include the antioxidants in the wine, red wine’s ability to inhibit sugar to fat conversion and the fact that wine drinkers may have a healthier overall diet than drinkers of other things and nondrinkers on average.                 Of course this is all scientific speculation but it never hurts to go with what science is pointing to as a good idea. After all gaining weight can lead all sorts of health problems.  And if staying away from these problems recommends that a glass of wine now and again is a good thing, who is a wine lover to tell science no? Of course it would also involve eating healthy still and only enjoying the reasonable amount of wine.  Oddly enough the low to moderate wine drinkers were the healthiest group, not the nondrinkers. This contrasts somewhat with the traditional knowledge that alcohol directly leads to weight gain. So give wine gifts and embrace the food and drink loving crowd that are wine enthusiasts by using those two bottle wine bags.

Wine, Tomatoes and Sunscreen

What does a glass of red wine have in common with a ripe tomato? Just the color red? What about to a bottle of sunscreen? Well funnily enough all three have something very amazing in common that only the sunscreen is known for, protect skin from the sun. Of course the sunscreen is the only one put right on the skin, compounds found in red wine and tomatoes can protect skin from the inside by making it less easily damaged by UV rays. These flavonoids have been found to significantly help skin repair itself from the damage that sun causes and even fortifies the skin against future burns and damage.  While these are also found in quality chocolate and some other vegetables, they are highest in red wine and tomatoes. This means that pasta with tomato sauce and a glass of red wine for dinner is more than a great simple meal, it is like extra sunscreen. While the effects may be subtle, the studies show that continued consumption of the compounds can have dramatic results over the years. Filling those three bottle wine totes regularly could actually fight the aging process. Sun damage causes its color, wrinkles, and spots by destroying cells on the skin surface but red wine can help increase healthy blood flow to the skin and deliver flavonoids to the skin for better healing and protection.

The Vineyard on an Island

Wine can be a real undertaking to make.  Between growing the grapes, fermenting, bottling and selling it can seem to take a village just to produce a bottle. This makes it easy for wine to become part of a big industrial effort but on a small French island the process is still done by only a small group of monks. The Lerins Abbey, on a small island of the same name, is home to only 20 monks but churns out 30,000 bottles of premium wines every year along with their religious duties.  The island is not only a perfect wine growing region but also is an ancient monastery.                  While it hasn’t always been a vineyard, the island has a rich French history. Founded as a monastery in the year 405 it has been inhabited in some way or another ever since, and not always by monks.  For a period of 20 years after the French Revolution was sold to an actress.  But in 1859 the ownership again changed into the hands of someone focused on religion.

                In the 1990’s the monks of the island decided that they wanted their wine to be not only the best possible but sought after in the wine bags of the wine fans in France, because it does no good to make it if no one wants it. And indeed they are succeeding, their wine is so sought after that the monastery is now able to live their modest lives solely on the sales of the wine they make.  While unlikely that their wine will ever be sold outside of France it is good to know about such long standing wine traditions that are still alive today.

New Wine Health News

Is it impossible to get the gym every day? Well a new study suggests, that at least every now and then, a glass of red wine can stave off the muscle loss associated with skipping on a work out or two. The study was conducted on rats so it is not completely applicable to humans, but the thought that that glass of red wine is more than a treat after a hard day is comforting. The study used reservatol, a compound in red wine and was given to half the rats in a group that had been strenuously exercised for weeks. The group not given the compound had lost significant amounts of muscle mass and even a little mineral bone density after suddenly stopping the work out regiment. The half of the rats though that were given reservatol in place of their workouts had only a slightly detectable amount of muscle loss even a week after the exercise stopped.                 This study will be further researched and preformed again, but in the meantime it can be a comfort that after a hard Monday it is okay to ignore the treadmill and have a glass of red wine instead. Walking to wine baskets doesn't count as a workout though so it is only something to do every now and then.

Corked Wine Explained

Sometimes a bottle of wine can have a funny smell to it when opened. This musty smell is a compound called TCA or 2,4,6-trichloroanisole and is a reaction caused by mold, chlorine and the phenols in wine.  This is a problem with the cork, which is why it is often called being “corked.”  Sadly this means that the bottle is ruined, but there is a way to avoid it in the future. Don’t avoid the winery or winemaker because this is a completely random event. Just make sure to look at corks a little closer from now on. Many corked bottles of wine have signs on the outer part of the cork. Things like a pushed up cork can be a sign that a bottle is corked. But don’t think that every bottle is bad, it is a very rare event. The compound can be found in other parts of wineries in things like cardboard pallets and wooden tools. But it is easy to get rid of and there are very few cases when a winery can’t get rid of the compound, but usually it is a simple matter of replacing a few things. The chances of a bottle in four bottle wine totes being bad is a slim chance to none though so don’t worry too much about it.

National Wine Day

There are a slew of little known holidays in the U.S. that if people knew about them they would celebrate them. One such forgotten holiday is national wine day.  National wine day falls on May 25, yes today, and is commonly celebrated with a glass of wine and thought on the many health benefits of wine.  So once it’s decided what will go in those pretty crystal wine decanters than sit down to a tale of the many benefits of drinking a glass of wine a day.                  Wine has many compounds that are little understood and just as many that have known health benefits. There are compounds in red wine in particular that aid in memory retention, especially in the more elderly. This substance is called polyphenols and is one of wine’s most well-known helpful compound. But of course there are other things in wine that are known by science to help with other aspects of brain functioning. So enjoy that glass of red wine and maybe even make a toast to the fact that there is a day dedicated to the enjoyment of a drink that has been around for so long and provides so much good for the drinker while it pleases the senses. 

On Wine Clubs

While it may seem like a great gift idea for a wine lover, wine clubs can easily be a letdown for the receiver and a flat out waste of a gift for the giver.  The average wine club is little better than a dumping place for off vintages and completely random overstock. A better idea for a wine lover’s gift is a winery club membership. These are specific to one winery so just pick a good quality winery and most of the unwanted things will be weeded out right then.                 The real problem with normal wine clubs is that they are fairly big businesses, if there is a local wine club around than it may very well be a better choice than other wine clubs because they will be wanting the return business. That being said the best choice for quality is to find out the favorite winery of the person the gift is for and see if they have their own membership program.  This is different than a wine club but has its own wonderful set of perks.  Members at a winery will get previews of the new releases every season and may receive invitations to events, sales and tastings.  So the better gift to get for a happy wine lover with full two bottle wine carriers is the winery specific membership usually. Just read into everything before purchasing and look for reviews.

Pepper Flavor Explained

Some wines have a clearly there peppery flavor that is almost a flavor mystery to vintners.  But scientists studying wine have found the compound responsible for the distinct taste, rotundone,  While little else is known about the compound or why it is present in only some wines, rotundone is clearly responsible for a sharp peppery taste in wine.  While not related to black pepper at all the compound seems to serve no purpose in wine other than taste. So now the question is, does science now find out what causes this compound in wine? Or does the wine world simply leave it be that it can be present in wine or it can not be?  The future will tell if science tries to manipulate wine to make peppery champagne or if it stays out of the buisness that vintners think of as an art not a science. Sadly most of the time putting wine in such scientific terms as this can take away a hint of the romance to it, but fear not. Some wine art can add that fine art feel back to the hearts of wine lovers.  Even though now it is no longer a mystery as to why zinfandel has that charectaristic pepper taste, it is still possible to enjoy the magic that is made when a good wine hits a person's lips.

Keep A Sharp Mind

Using food and other natural items to improve health and mind is a trend right now this is sweeping the United States.  Things like "superfoods" are saught after, but all wine lovers already have a superfood like item in their houses, red wine. Small amounts of polyphenols that are found in good dark chocolate are found in even larger amounts in red wine.  Polyphenols are good for brains because they increase the delivery of blood to the brain. This rush of oxygen and sugars to the brain make calculations faster.  Studies using polyphenols have even been conducted to see who gets the most benefit from them, the answer, the elderly.  This is because of the decreased blood flow to the brain as people age, so even those feeling mentally sluggish can get a boost from the goodness in red wine. Sadly white wine does not have nearly as much polyphenols as red meaning that the Bacchus red wine glasses will help more if drinking wine is going to part of a plan to imporve ones thinking and brain function.  Finer darker reds have even more polyphenols in them too so enjoy that nightly class of red and justify buying that expensive bottle. It's not a splurge, it's helping brain function.

Vegetarian Wine News

More news on the vegetarian wine issue that was blogged about on April 26, Canada has made a step forward in making drinking wine an easier task for vegetarians. Starting the summer of 2012 bottles of wine from Canada or being sold in Canada must contain a warning if they may contain traces of non-vegetarian substances from the sediment gathering agent.  Basically this means that if the wine maker used milk protein, egg white, or animal gelatins to clear the sediments from the wine that they must say so on the label.  This was originally done to alert people with allergies and food intolerances but is just as useful to vegetarians struggling in a meat eating world.                  While not everyone, or even a large percent, is a vegetarian it is nice to know what is in the wine.  And maybe with this vegetarian adventure into wine more vegans will soon be able to grab their corkscrews without consuming anything against their diet.  Synthetic sediment clearers and clay can be used with almost as good effects as animal products.  It is heartening to think that in a few years there will be few reasons to question the quality and ingredients of anything wither it is a bottle of wine with friends or something at a nice restaurant.   

Wine Label Confusion

While there are plenty of words on wine labels, some of them are very vague or undefined. Typically the only words that matter are the type of wine, year and brand name.  It is hard to find a good wine based on anything else because legally none of the other terms are defined, leaving the vintner to creatively bulk up their product however they feel they can with reassuring words like “old vine” and reserve.  But really these words have as much meaning as farm fresh and wholesome used by the food companies.  Still don’t let those wine glasses go empty because vintners are not trying to swindle the average wine drinker, it is just marketing.                  The vintners are complaining about wine labeling too, but because there has been a push for stricter labeling regulations for wine and they protest that it is already hard enough to get a label approved and that stricter labeling would cripple the honest wine makers.  They believe that their product is great, and by their definitions, deserving of the buzz words they chose for the labels.  Of course this is ultimately a complicated issue that needs to be considered carefully before conclusions are drawn. 

Spotlight Finger Lakes

Many people who do not even drink wine know about the exceptional wine that comes from Napa in California; but second in celebrity for America’s wine countries defiantly goes to the Finger Lakes area.  In fact two wineries in the Finger Lakes area where recently announced Wine & Spirits Top Value Brands.  This is a great honor for Fox Run Vineyards and Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars because out of the year’s worth of blind tastings they stood out as having multiple stellar value wines.  In fact the whole area has been named one of the most affordable and beautiful wine countries in North America. Of course if planning a trip there now is out of the question, people do have to work, than grab wine baskets                 All Finger Lakes wineries are particularly known for their dry and semi-dry Rieslings. So try one of those and while sipping it imagine that future trip to the gorgeous Finger Lakes in the hopefully near future.  Everyone deserves a vacation after all and an area named as being affordable and producing quality wine is probably the best place to have a last minute getaway. 

Wine For Mom

While a nice little bottle of wine may seem like a great thing to include in the offerings for mother’s day, make sure not to skimp on the wine’s quality.  Multiple studies have shown that women have a more acute sense of smell and taste than men or even children.  Yale even discovered that there is a chunk of the population that has more taste buds than the rest of the human population and that women are in the majority of this group.  Because while wine making and tasting has traditionally been a man’s activity, many women are edging their way into the field and making it common place for women to be respected for their tasting ability.  So if getting a bottle of wine for mom still seems like a good idea than make sure it is of good quality.                   But if picking out a mom approved wine seems too intimidating for this mother’s day, another option is to get them some rhino wine gear and let them pick the wine that is to go in it later.  That way the selection is all on their more sensitive noses and tongues.

In Memory

Perhaps it is time to take a minute out of the day and remember the late Jess Jackson, wine pioneer and good guy.  A visionary that, with his first wife, developed the Kendell-Jackson brand and successfully popularized premium wines to the mass market; even giving chardonnay its current household staple status.  Also a great fan of horses and racing, Jess was a classic entrepreneur where every career he tried gave him a great deal of success.  This great name in wine and the vintner world died of cancer in his California home, an accomplished man.                   Most people had never thought much about chardonnay until Jess Jackson had a feeling it would be a hit.  He was also vocal in the unfair practice that a lot of states have that force wine to pass through multiple distributors, increasing the consumer’s paying price.  He has many friends who will miss him and a great many fans of chardonnay that may have no idea who to thank for the wine they always keep in the house from four bottle wine carriers.  But do not mourn the man, thank him and follow the entrepreneurial spirit that runs America.

Wine Keg Trend

A new trend is becoming popular with resturants wine kegs. This technology is part of the green movement that attempts to reduce waste made and recycle wherever possible to prolong the life of the planet. Wine kegs are a hint of genius for the green movement and resturant owner's alike. The kegs are reusable and require less material than dozens of glass bottles and benefit resturants because wine sold by the glass tends to oxidize when in the bottle.  The kegs are used and than cleaned and returned to the winery. The savings from using wine kegs are clear for everyone involved in it.  The packaging cost of a case of wine can be as high as $40 while a wine keg holds  about three cases worth and costs just $30 apiece.  And again the resturant saves money by reducing the waste of wine sold by the glass that oxidzes.   The savings to the environmet are even clearer when recycable wine kegs are used.  But the savings of wine kegs are not as apparent to the consumor, they should try some nice wine art instead to have a reminder of wine love that doesn't cost money or require the same upkeep as a wine cellar or other tribute to wine.