Thursday, March 14, 2013

Wine Trends For Spring!

Spring is in the air. Someplace.
Spring is my favorite time of year - no question! Our world explodes with new life as the grass greens, trees bud and flowers bloom.
Love is in the air!  Aahhhh ......
..... Wine!
As warmer weather approaches, wine sales experience a slight, but very definite shift. I've copied a link below from Time Magazine regarding their take on how the advent of Spring affects wine trends. I don't know where they get their information. It's interesting, but doesn't necessarily track with my observations here at The Market.
Here they are:
White Wines: While Chardonnay is a year round staple, it's the other whites that pick up the pace come Spring. Sauvignon Blanc, especially the crisp, refreshing styles from New Zealand really start to gain traction. Other crisp styles like Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris also emerge. We are very fond of the relatively unknown whites from Italy, for example, Gavi (Cortese grape), Soave (Garganega grape), Verdicchio (Verdicchio grape) and Vermentino (Vermentino grape). These Italian varietals, with their higher acidity levels, are terrifically refreshing, and excellent with mild white cheeses, lunch meats, and salads - ideal warm weather foods.
Rose' Wines: We may carry one Rose' wine in the shop during winter, but, as the weather warms, we expand to 6 or 7 Rose's wines - depending on the quality in a given year. These are such versatile wines, perfect to sip by themselves, but also great with all kinds of "grill" foods. Hamburgers, hot dogs, brats, chicken and barbecue all pair well with Rose'.
Producers have gotten more creative with Rose', too. They are now made from almost every red varietal,  for example: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Grenache, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese. That's quite a list, and it doesn't take into account all the interesting blending that gets done with the grapes.
If you haven't done so yet, it's time to open your mind, and palate, to Rose' this season.
Red Wines: Cabernet Sauvignon always has a place as long as you're grilling steaks. But lighter reds also start to make their presence known. Zinfandel, Grenache and lighter Syrahs are ideal barbecue wines.
Red blends also become very popular. These wines can be blends of almost any red grapes - oftentimes they're just that, with 8 or more varietals in the mix. They are fruit forward, low in tannins, high in value and way up on the "enjoyability" chart.
Cheers to Spring!


Friday, March 8, 2013

Important Women In The World of Wine!

My wife, Judy, sends me lots of ideas and articles to use in my blogs.
Although I really appreciate her efforts, I probably use only about 10% of what she sends.
I'm not really sure if I'm offending her with that low acceptance rate, because she never comments or complains.
She's a good wife.
But, help me here, guys! How can I possibly ignore an article titled: "Women Winemakers Who Changed the World"?
One word:  "I can't".
I'm copying the link to the article below. It's an interesting read that references some of the great women in the industry. For example: Zelma Long: Mondavi, Cathy Corison: Corison (Cabernet), Chiara Boschis: Pira & Figli (Barolo) and Veronique Drouhin: Drouhin (Burgundy and Oregon).
But let's focus on The Wine Market.
I am very proud of the women that have visited The Market and poured their wines for our customers. My apologies to those I will miss, because I am just going from memory,  but man, (or should I say "woman"!) this is a pretty impressive list.
Katharina Prum: JJ Prum, Francesca Vaira: Vajra, Gaia Gaja: Gaja.
Just this past week we had Kelly Kehoe Foley from Robert Foley Wines and Jann Forth from Forth Winery visit The Market. Next week we have Nasim Momtazi from Maysara Winery. 
Looking forward to more great "wine women" visiting The Market in the months ahead!


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

More on the wine ratings game ....

During my high school and college years, I received my share of "A" and "C" grades.
How did I react to each?  A = Satisfaction. This is what I worked for and "deserved" to receive!
C = DEVASTATION! Woe is me - I'm no better than "average".
All the major critics use the 100 point scale to grade wine these days. Let's take the Wine Spectator scale and translate the score range into school grades (A through F):

  • 95-100: Classic: a great wine = A to A+
  • 90-94: Outstanding: a wine of superior character and style = B+ to A-
  • 85-89: Very good: a wine with special qualities = C+ to B+
  • 80-84: Good: a solid, well-made wine = C to C+
  • 75-79: Mediocre: a drinkable wine that may have minor flaws = D- to D+
  • 50-74: Not recommended = D- to F 
So, how many 80-84 point wines have you bought lately?  Huh??
These are "good, solid, well made wines".
Are you on the hunt for any 85-89 point wines? These are "very good: wines with special qualities".
Probably not.
I think I've made my point. Like our grades in school, standards for wine ratings are sometimes unrealistically high. Everyone wants the highest scoring wines at the best possible prices.
Retailers won't even post a score of 80-84 points, because they know it will be the death of the wine.
I've had many really good wines with scores of 87-89 points that are also excellent values. But, the sad thing is, I usually don't advertise the scores. I just promote the taste and value of the wines. And you know what? Many of these 87-89 pointers have developed quite a following.
Nothing is going to change any time soon. Certainly not because I wrote a little blog about this.
But, I think if we would all lighten up a little about wine scores, we would actually enjoy a greater variety of wines, and we would enjoy them NOW - without waiting for some "grade A" wine to evolve over the next 10-15 years.
Here's an article from the Wall Street Journal that gave me the inspiration for today's blog. It's interesting to read their "take" on the topic.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Comfort Wines For A Snowy Day!

It's been over two weeks since I've had anything to drink, and I have another month to go.
So, do I miss my wine?
$#@&!!, YEAH!!
Oh, I'm not in any pain or anything. There's no withdrawal to speak of. But, let me tell ya ... last week, when we had a fantastic surf and turf dinner of fillet Mignon and giant prawns .... I really, really wanted a nice Bordeaux or Cabernet Sauvignon to enjoy with the food.
So, I have to find material other than my personal wine experiences to write about here.
Let's look to Kansas City, where my daughter, Becky and her husband, Paul live with their two daughters, Grace (3 1/2) and Kathryn (almost 1).
You may have heard that KC got hit with quite a bit of snow lately. Within a week, my kids got dumped with 10" and about 8" of the stuff. What to drink - what to drink?
The snow happened during the week, so you're not gonna crack open any expensive stuff.
Now Becky's not much of a drinker, although she does appreciate a good wine. How could she be my daughter otherwise.
But Paul. Paul is a another story. Let's just say, I may have been a bad (good?) influence on Paul.
Let's get to the wine. Paul selected two  reds - big on comfort and great on value.
2009 Forth Syrah - $15
2010 Barrel 27 Rock & Hard Place Grenache - $18
These are really amazing wines, especially for the money. There is nothing more satisfying than finding truly great wines at these price levels.
And now, this proud grandpa is going to shamelessly post a picture of granddaughter Grace playing in the snow.
My blog.


PS: I'm betting Paul had a few sips of Single Malt Scotch, too.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Turmoil in the world of wine critics?

Upheaval in the wine world!
Wine critics running amok!
Okay, I'm exaggerating a little. But not really by that much.
Robert Parker recently sold a majority of The Wine Advocate to a Chinese conglomerate. This occurred shortly after Robert started reducing his work load by handing off the prestigious California wine beat to long time Italian critic, Antonio Galloni.
So what does Antonio go and do? He leaves The Wine Advocate to start up his own website to critique wine under his own name.
It's not just The Wine Advocate either. Last year, James Suckling left The Wine Spectator to start his own site.
So The Wine Advocate is a mess. The Wine Spectator seems to be re-inventing itself with lower ratings across the board for EVERYTHING! And new critics seem to keep coming out of the woodworks every day.
In addition to the "big boys" Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate, you can get ratings from Stephen Tanzer (probably our favorite), Wine Enthusiast, Burghound, Decanter, Rhone Report, Wine & Spirits, and, new guys: James Suckling and Antonio Galloni. That's off the top of my head. I know I  missed several critics that are out there.
The retailer has a love/hate relationship with the critics. We can't knock any of them, because, let's face it, we rely on ratings to sell wine. The Wine Market may be a little different from some retailers in that WE NORMALLY NEED TO AGREE WITH A RATING BEFORE WE BACK IT. I say "normally", because it's not always possible for us to try every highly rated wine. Sometimes, demand is so high, and allocations so restricted, that we have to trust the critic's rating.
But what's the consumer to do? Here's a few things that I think make sense:
First, if you're so inclined, read as many reviews as possible. It's interesting to see how the critics align, and where they differ.
Second, find "wine people" you can trust. These resources can come from retailers, restaurant sommeliers, or from individual wineries. If these "wine people" really love wine, they will be happy to talk wine with you, and make suggestions on some of their favorites.
Finally, taste wine. Taste as much as you can. Here in St. Louis, there are always wine tastings - most of them at no charge. Restaurants also offer wine pairing dinners, and winemakers are constantly traveling the country to "work the markets".
Once you develop your palate and have a circle of "wine people" you can trust, the critics scores become just what they should be: one tool among many, to evaluate a wine.


Robert Parker evaluating a wine.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Winery Focus: Brewer Clifton!

I was very pleased to read that The Los Angeles Times selected a Brewer Clifton Chardonnay as their "wine of the week".
Brewer Clifton has long been one of our favorite producers here at The Market. We will typically carry 3 or 4 Chardonnays, and a similar number of Pinot Noirs in our stock throughout the year.
Winemakers are ex-French professor Greg Brewer and ex-surfer and rock singer Steve Clifton. As diverse as those backgrounds are, they are very focused when it comes to their wine.
They produce only Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA (American Viticultural Area). They make several different vineyard specific wines, but never stray from the main model.
Here is what the winemakers have to say:  "We believe that the geographic, geologic and climatic uniqueness of the Sta. Rita Hills appellation provide an ideal place to grow chardonnay and pinot noir of intensity, complexity and specificity. Within the appellation, each vineyard carries its own imprint".
I find the Brewer Clifton style to be somewhere between the domestic and French styles of winemaking. The Chardonnays are excellent food wines, having good acidity and minerality, and the Pinot Noirs, like red Burgundies, are better with a few years of bottle age.
If you've never had a Brewer Clifton wine, stop by The Market sometime and give one a try. Or, even better, be sure to attend one of our Brewer Clifton tastings. We have at least two per year.
The LA Times link is below if you are interested in reading more.,0,5932500.story


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

How is wine complex?

"A whole made up of complicated or interrelated parts". That's how Webster defines "complex".
This applies to every woman I've ever known .... but wine?
I've used "complex" to describe many wines in these blogs.  
But, what do I really mean when I use the word complex in relation to wine?
Nothing like putting yourself on the spot.
I'm going to step away and think about this a while.
Okay. I'm back.
Layers.  When I say a wine is complex, I'm referring to the layers of expression on both the nose and the palate. The various layers of scent and taste evolve as the wine sits in the glass and breathes,  revealing new and ever-changing sensations over whatever amount of time you are tasting the wine.
I think that's pretty cool. It's also what makes good quality, 'complex" wine really special.
Here's a great example of an excellent "complex" wine that I've enjoyed recently:
2010 Ojai Fe Ciega Pinot Noir, 93 Points Stephen Tanzer - $46 at The Market
Vivid ruby-red.  Raspberry compote and Asian spices on the alluringly perfumed nose, with notes of Asian spices and sandalwood adding complexity.  Sweet, sappy and expansive, offering sappy red and dark berry flavors and a silky texture.  Gains tension with air but maintains its fruity appeal.  Finishes with sweet notes of candied red berries and rose pastille. (Stephen Tanzer description)