Archive for September, 2010

Newest intruder might bug state wine industry

September 20, 2010 Leave a comment

We’re fortunate in the Grand Valley to have access to so many of Colorado’s finest wines.
Recent events, ranging from the Governor’s Reception at the Boettcher Mansion and the Colorado Mountain Winefest continue to build an audience for Colorado wines, which is good for the entire industry.
And good for those of us who enjoy the results of the winemaker’s efforts.
Of course, for every celebration there’s inevitably a bug in the wine bottle, and this week’s special flying guest is a tiny fly that may cause great impact.
Because of the several damaging frosts suffered over the last year, many of Colorado’s winemakers this year are looking out-of-state for grapes.
That’s not uncommon since some varietals aren’t grown in commercial quantities in Colorado and there’s always California’s massive grape industry to help a winemaker put some juice in his or her barrels.
But there are fears that this year winemakers buying grapes from Oregon and Washington might bring an unwanted pest into Colorado along with those grapes.
The Spotted Wing Drosophila fruit fly is an invasive species that first was noticed in the Pacific Northwest late last summer.
Colorado already has several species of fruit flies, which you know if you’ve ever left a peach on your counter to ripen.
The big difference between our resident fruit flies and the Spotted Wing is its larvae infest ripe and ripening fruits, unlike most fruit flies that feast on rotting fruit.
The Spotted Wing’s mouth is like a rasp, which allows it to cut through the skin of ripe fruit.
According to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, once the larvae hatch and begin feeding, the fruit completely disintegrates.
The department says it’s almost impossible to detect damaged fruit until it is too late.
Winemaker and consultant Bill Muscnung of Paonia, who spent years in the Pacific Northwest wine industry before moving to Colorado, is pushing for a moratorium on Oregon and Washington fruits.
He wants to hold off on bringing in that fruit for fears it will be contaminated with the Spotted Wing and until it can be determined what level of threat the Spotted Wing poses.
Because once it’s here, there’s no getting rid of it.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture says “Eradication is not a viable option. Control is the best chance Oregon has in protecting crop yields and maintaining markets.”
Colorado state viticulturist Horst Caspari said no one in Colorado is quite sure what to make of the Spotted Wing’s feared appearance.
“We don’t know if it will be a concern or not,” Caspari said. “It certainly seems a big concern for people in Oregon but we’re not sure what impact it may have here.”
It won’t be the first non-native bug brought into Colorado on plant material.
What’s saved Colorado from previous invaders is the climate, which isn’t as hospitable to the bugs that thrive in California’s benign climate.
Colorado’s best defense, said Caspari, is the long-standing vigilance of the state’s agriculture industry.
“We don’t want to have to adopt (special pesticide treatments) to deal with another bug,” he said. “If it’s a real threat, we’ll have to adapt our strategies to deal with it.
“In the long run, we hope we won’t get it, and the longer we keep it out of the state the better.”

Categories: Uncategorized

Matt Kramer’s new book offers insights on wine and wine writing

September 7, 2010 Leave a comment

The world of wine writing is filled with voices clamoring for attention, most of them claiming to be the last word or the best word or both on the latest offerings and what they mean (or should mean) to you.
There are few places to turn where a wine lover isn’t hard-pressed to feel comfortable, as if studying or simply drinking wine no longer is a pleasure but more a tedious endeavor rewarded with a pass/fail/no-hope-for-you grade. Do you focus on the flood of new vintages from around the world, do you explore what’s already on the shelves or do you dig deep into the cellars, looking for something forgotten or overlooked or simply not yet universally acclaimed?
Is there a “right” path to follow? And dare there be a voice to lead?
I would guess Matt Kramer would say no to both, although he is one of the few whose advice I would bother to heed.
Kramer has been observing and writing about wine for more than three decades, a span of time in which he’s established his voice as one of well-considered reason and insight in a profession where emotions, not intellect, often comprise the main arguments for and against a wine’s success.
A long-running contributor to Wine Spectator Magazine, columnist for the Portland Oregonian newspaper and author of several well-done books (his “Making Sense” series is worth the investment), Kramer now gathers his years of observations into a new book titled “Matt Kramer on Wine” (Sterling Publications, New York, 2010, 334 pages, hardcover, $19.95).
It’s the subtitle that gives away the farm: “A Matchless Collection of Columns, Essays, and Observations by America’s Most Original and Lucid Wine Writer.”
I’m ready to quit writing this review, for these aren’t some immoderate ad-copy hype but a rather accurate description of Kramer’s role in modern wine writing.
Kramer isn’t a fan, so to speak, but rather a sharp-eyed observer, as his book notes front and center. There’s a big difference between waving blindly the foam No. 1 finger and being able to comment clearly on what wine is, what it should be and, when necessary, where it fails both itself and the consumer.
The book is a retrospective, a hand-picked collection of what Kramer considers his best work over the past 30 years. That’s a tall order for anyone to fill, particularly someone with so much from which to choose.
Consider some of the quotes chosen at random from Kramer’s vast reservoir of wit, acerbic comments and enlightening philosophy:
– “To marvel about fine wine is not to romanticize it, but to grasp its real meaning. Fine wine, like birdsong, is fundamentally wild.”
– “The purpose of fine wine is not to give pleasure, but to give insight.”
– “My rule of thumb for old wine is this: if you can’t tell what the hell it is, it’s too old.”
– “This is the giveaway to great wine: It does all the work, yet you feel like you’re the genius.”
Of all the writers, bloggers and self-styled wine experts I read on a regular basis, Matt Kramer is one of the very few I’d really care to share a bottle of wine with, not simply to sit and listen but also to delve into his insights about the fascinating world of wine. Until then, his book “Matt Kramer on Wine” will have to fill the void.

Put a cork in Aussie “Champagne”

September 2, 2010 Leave a comment

This year, Labor Day marks more than the traditional end of summer, it also brings an end to what we’ve come to know as Australian “Champagne.”
Not to worry, you’ll still be able to purchase your favorite down-under bubbly but with the official enforcement of the EU-Australia Wine Trade Agreement beginning Sept. 1, you’ll no longer see Australian wines labeled Champagne, Port or Sherry.
“This agreement between Australia and the European Union is a step forward for protecting consumers,” said Sonia Smith, director of the Champagne Bureau. “When consumers buy a bottle of wine, they should be able to rely on the truth of the label.”
According to its Web site, the Champagne Bureau is the “official U.S. representative of the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), a trade association which represents the grape growers and houses of Champagne, France.
According to the Champagne Bureau, more than half of all sparkling wines sold in the U.S. are mislabeled Champagne.
”It’s only Champagne when the wine is from Champagne, France,” Smith said. “Australia joins the European Union and a long list of nations, all of which have agreed to recognize and protect wine regional names such as Champagne.”
You can’t label a sweet wine as Port unless is comes from the Porto region, Sherry has to come from Jerez and Chianti Classico must be from Chianti, among the many wines and regions now protected under various international agreements.
However, as you might notice by reading between the lines, in a loophole in an existing law, American vintners still can label their sparkling wines as Champagne.
A Dec., 2006, Congressional action banned the use of 16 European place names and asked that domestic sparkling wines should be labeled just that, sparkling wines.
However, a grandfather clause sidestepped the issue by allowing an exception for some older brands which still use the word Champagne on their labels.
Since then, the Champagne Bureau has pushed their “Unmask the Truth” campaign, which features a Zorro-like mask over a bottle of American Champagne. Or “Champagne” in quotes, as the bureau likes to write it.
“U.S. consumers deserve the same protection as Australians”, lamented Smith.
According to the Champagne Bureau, there are seven U.S. winemaking regions Napa Valley, Sonoma, Oregon, Paso Robles, Walla Walla, Long Island and Washington State) supporting the effort to protect Champagne.
Together with seven international regions (Jerez, Porto, Chianti Classico, Tokaj, Victoria, Rioja, Spain and Western Australia), the American regions signed a Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin, which Smith said recognizes the importance of protecting wine locations and their names.
Will it make consumers quit asking for “Champagne” when ever they feel like something bubbly?
Hardly. Whether it’s legal or not, “Champagne” has become a near-generic term for anything bubbly, whether it’s a Spanish Cava, Italian Prosecco or French Champagne.
We don’t disagree with the protection of place names, we simply recognize it’s a long uphill battle to convert the vocabulary of someone simply looking for a delightful refresher.