Posts Tagged ‘wine collecting’

A Thin Line Between OW and NW

Monday, October 14th, 2013

Three weeks into our fall wine school season here at the SF Wine Center and I must say that one thing has already stood out to me. Within these first few classes we’ve done several side by side blind tastings of grape varieties in both their Old World and New World forms. Some found it relatively easy to decipher which was which while many were left giving the top of their heads a nice little scratch. So I began to wonder, why are wine styles that have historically been considered ‘night and day’ from each other nowadays blurring the lines? The answer to that is complicatedly simple. When it comes to producing wines that compare in style and quality to their Old World counterparts, these days New World producers are pinning the tail closer to the donkey’s…well, you know. They are doing so by investing more time, money, and attention into mimicking the ways of the Old World. The overall picture is based on less interference with the wines and allowing them to express their natural character and terroir. In the vineyard they are putting more focus on site selection and meticulous viticulture methods while in the winery they are investing in better equipment to create more hygienic and delicate winemaking conditions. Another key factor is that they are finding ways to less abrasively impart oak to the wines by paying the extra dollars for French oak, using more neutral oak, and sometimes skipping oak all together. Okay, okay, so now let’s have a taste of what this all means…

The first example I’ll use is a Sauvignon Blanc that we tasted. It was crisp with aromas of green apple, grapefruit, elderflower, bay laurels, and a hint of smoky minerality. Perhaps a wine from Sancerre? Nope. Instead, this refreshing wine hails from Casablanca, Chile. Example number two is a Riesling that expressed aromas of ripe pear, melon, jasmine, and developing hints of kerosene and eucalyptus. This could have very well passed for a German Trocken wine that was grown near a patch of gum trees, but naturally it is from none other than the Barossa Valley of Australia. On to example number three, this wine had soft-tannin and a masculine complexity that presented nuances of red cherry, smoked meat, leather, and forest floor. All of the right pieces were there to be on par with a Gevrey-Chambertin with a bit more backbone, but instead this Pinot Noir came from Willamette Valley, Oregon. Our last example is a deep colored Nebbiolo with high acidity and powdery tannin with flavors of black cherry, plum, rose, and earthiness. Less reflective of Barolo and more similar to a Valtellina Nebbiolo, this wine is from Paso Robles, California and is but one of many examples of Italian varietals showing some great potential here in the Golden State. So with all of these examples, we can all agree that New World producers have been stepping up their game to continue giving Old World wines a run for their money. But hey, Old World producers can’t be too upset about it… Imitation IS the best form of flattery.

-Julie Albin

Wine Collecting – Not Just for the Rich and Famous

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

“Wine collecting”… the term itself could indeed sound a bit posh. Many probably hear that and envision an aristocrat resembling the Monopoly guy wearing a monocle and speaking of his fine wine collection in his South London accent. Well fast-forward that skewed perception and welcome to the 21st century. Nowadays, collecting wine can be seen as both a well endeavored cultural pastime for everyday wine drinkers and also a thriving business model for savvy investors. For example, ask someone who purchased allocations of Bordeaux 30 years ago what the price point of their wines were back then and what they are selling at now; we’re talking massive amounts of ROI on those wines. Okay fine, so that is best case scenario and will certainly not be the case with all wine. But at the end of the day, there is a highly justifiable reason why wine auction houses across the globe continue to flourish. Not particularly interested in purchasing wine for investment purposes? No problem. Collecting wine goes much further than gobbling up a bunch of them just to sell them via auction many years later. There are also more humble and personal benefits to purchasing wines by the dozen. What could these benefits be? Here’s just a taste of ‘em…

As we dive into this topic there is one key element to remember in all of this. Bar the mass-produced bulk wines that are made from grapes that came from who knows where, when it comes to the rest of the wine industry, each bottle that you hold in your hands is in fact a rare item. Unlike other beverages that are made consistently with the same ingredients and recipes year after year, wine is made from a fresh fruit that is exceedingly sensitive to different factors and fluctuates substantially from region to region and year to year. Safely stated, wine is not in never-ending supply. Realistically, with each wine and each vintage, there really are only a select amount of bottles floating around out there. So as far as buying them goes, the wines that you like are more than just limited in supply, they can be strait up difficult to acquire. This is one of the main reasons why the best wines in the industry are sold as en primeur, aka “wine futures”, and a great example being that wines from Bordeaux’s top estates are completely sold well before they even make it out of the barrel. Now once you’ve decided to purchase some wine, something you may notice if you choose to buy by the case is that cost wise it typically tends to work out a better price per bottle than if you bought a single bottle alone. True, doing that once is not going to move mountains in money savings, but if that becomes habit the money you save over the years will be more than just nickels and dimes. And as an additional bonus, the next time you have a last minute dinner party to attend or run out of time to buy a gift for a special occasion, you have your collection of wines to save the day. Now with all of these benefits, you mustn’t forget how vitally important it is to make sure you are storing them properly. By storing them in a temperature and humidity controlled environment, such as a wine refrigerator in your home or a wine storage facility such as the SF Wine Center, you’ll get to fruitfully experience the full range of progression that your wines evolve into. From their bright and sparky youth all the way to their sophisticated maturity, you get to be there along for the ride. So there you have it, collecting wine is not just a snooty hobby for the culturally elite; it’s something that all of us everyday wine drinkers will benefit from. But hey, if you really want to act out the part why not slap on a monocle and fake Franz Ferdinand mustache, you know, just for kicks.

-Julie Albin