Hvornår topper vinen?

På det seneste har jeg fået flere forskellige forespørgsler på, hvornår vin topper. De har både været generelle og specifikke. De specifikke går jeg let hen over i slutningen af dette skriv, mens jeg i stedet bruger kræfterne på at komme omkring de generelle, og beskrive ud fra hvilke kriterier jeg dømmer, når jeg filosoferer over hvornår en vin er på dens højeste. Fordi, det er jo dybest set en personlig sag. Det er jo ret så individuelt hvad man som smager, er mest vild med. Er det når vinen er purung, sprød og smart i en fart? Når den har fået lidt år på bagen og hviler mere i sig selv? Eller er det når den er et godt stykke på vej – derovre på den anden side af halvvejs i livet – og formår både at fortælle noget om ungdommens naivitet, tiden hvor den syntes uovervindelig og alderdommens vished?

 

Fase 1

Hvis vi starter med udelukkelsesmetoden, kan vi nok hurtigt konkludere, at man næppe kan tale om at en vin er toppet, inden den er nået teenagealderen. Det vil altså sige, at en vin kan være skøn, når den er purung og sprød, men toppet er den naturligvis ikke. Fordi hvad med alt det der ligger forude? Nej, selvom det nu en gang er en smagssag hvad man bedst kan lide, kan men ikke tale om at en vin topper så tidligt.

 

Fase 2

Hvad så, når den er i den periode hvor den synes uovervindelig? Altså dér hvor det hele bare kører, det sprøde og purunge har forvandlet sig til kant, der er masser af saft og kraft, skønt krydderi på tilværelsen med komplekse, spændende undertoner, grå, charmerende stænk hist og pist som kommer til udtryk i venlige tanniner og en yderst veltrimmet krop – ja, det er lige før der er tale om 6-pack og cykelrytterlår – med spændstig syre så det stadig sitrer på tungen… Er det her den topper? Mmmm, well. Det er der måske nogen der synes.

 

Fase 3

Dem der er mindre vilde med de såkaldte ’tertiære’ udtryk. Joo, de findes skam. Og de findes både blandt ny-udklækkede vinelskere og de gamle og garvede i gårde. De ’tertiære’ udtryk er de dufte og smage der tager over, når uovervindelighedssyndromet afløses af livets udvikling og kommer til udtryk i erfaring, forståelse, dybde og vision. Det er her den fulde historie fortælles. Og når den er fortalt vil vinen en dag ikke længere være til. Pludselig en dag, er den død. Er det så umiddelbart før den dør, at den topper? Altså dér hvor al den frugt der var, frisk som tørret, er visnet og blæst bort sammen med flaskelagringens erindringer, tanninerne tilintetgjort og syren nedbrudt?

 

Ja! Dér omkring… Dvs et eller andet sted imellem de sidste to faser.

 

I mit univers topper vinen – det vil sige, den er på dens umiddelbart højeste, dens umiddelbare maksimum – når den formår at fortælle en fantastisk historie der bevidner dens uovervindelighed finurligt smeltet sammen med alderdommens begyndende visdom – er man så heldig at det hele toppes (for nu at blive i terminologien) med et par anekdoter fra de spæde teenageår, ja, så kan der være tale om, ikke kun en skøn vin der topper, men en stor vin der topper, på dens absolut højeste.

 

Dette – denne ’topning’ – er dog ikke på nogen måde ensbetydende med at vinen er på vej i graven. Overhovedet. Vinen dør heldigvis slet ikke lige efter den ’topper’ – hvis vi altså vil sige, at det er her det sker. Vinen har, efter denne periode, stadig et spændende tertiært liv foran sig. Men som før nævnt er det ikke alle der sætter pris på den sidste rejse. Og for de der ikke gør kan det være rart at vide hvor længe man skal vente. På sin vin. Eller på at den topper. Eller noget.

 

Og dette kan være meget svært at spå mere eller mindre præcist om, selvom jeg sidst i skriv’et her, vil bevæge mig ud i en large tommelfingerregel. Vinen er jo levende og i konstant forandring. Ligesom os der drikker den. Ligesom vi – altså os mennesker – har en formodning om, at de bedste udgaver af os selv – dvs mennesker der er gode til at pleje deres krop og sind med fornuftig næring – kan køre meget langt på literen og således nå at blive både tussegamle og grå; lige såvel har man en formodning om at de bedste årgange af kvalitetsvine har i hvert fald 20-30 år af liv foran sig fra fødslen og i nogle tilfælde endda endnu mere. Og nogle gange meget mere. Med dette for øje (således tommelfingerreglen), kan man stå med en vin som eksempelvis Brunello, Barolo, Bourgogne eller Bordeaux fra super året 19- eller 20xx, fra den og den producent, og tænke; ”denne vin har typisk en livscyklus (alle faser inklusiv, dvs teenager – uovervindelig – gammel og vis) på minimum 20 og nok også 30 år. ET eller andet sted i løbet af disse år når vinen sit maksimum”.

 

Og hvornår sker dette maksimum så for dig, vinnyder?

 

Er det lige efter vinens første fase, altså teenageårene (I hope not!)

Er det efter vinens anden fase, uovervindelighedsperioden?

Er det i vinens tredje fase, altså når vinen er i fuldt tertiært flor og en skønne dag dør?

Eller er det et eller andet sted mellem de sidstnævnte to?

 

Du bestemmer…

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Freaking Scared of Flying!

5 min read

Am I the only one? It doesn’t seem so. Which actually makes it even more scary.

I love to think of myself as a World Citizen. But the truth is, if anything, I’m nothing more than a part-part time European one, simply too scared to do long distance flights and therefore haven’t been outside Europe yet! I know, that’s like never have had chocolate or wine.

Being in the wine business I really need to get around and I also do get up on that flight different times a month. I love to get out there and visit other countries. Who wouldn’t love to see as much of this magnificent world as totally possible?

My fear started around 10 years ago. I was on a domestic flight from Firenze to Rome (or the other way around). Until that day I had never, ever been afraid of flying. I actually wanted to become a fighter pilot when I was a teen. Convinced to become one I went through different initial consultations to figure out if I’d be fit. I did have a chance, they said, my height was perfect, just had to loose a little weight. I could live with that but then I got kids and decided to let go of such ambitions. As my kids got bigger I started to travel more. Some ten years ago my partner in life and I lived in each our country which had us flying back and foreward several times a month. Flying was absolutely noo problem back then.

But then on that Alitalia flight a very hot day in July, something happened. I was sitting on row 3F, so by the window. The flight was not very full, a guy was sitting one seat from me, so at 3D – he too was totally cool with flying, I could tell, because it wasn’t until the ‘end’ of what happened that he closed his laptop and looked up.

If I remember correctly the flight time was estimated to approx 40 minutes. Of course the actual flying time of the distance would be much less, around half of those minutes, considering Fiumicino Airport in Rome and the one in Florence being located some 200-ish km / 124 miles from each other. But airplanes have routes and other airplanes to respect and therefore it just takes a little more to arrive.

The flight attendants soon started their onboard services offering coffee and tea or something cold to drink. After around 20 minutes of flying a loud ‘”PHOOOOOH” occurs. I raise my eyes from my new bought Enoteca Pinchiorri ‘cook’ book and just look around for some seconds. A moment after the seat belt sign is put on and the captain announces “flight attendants take your seats”, which they rushed to do, pulling their trolleys back with them. At first, the guy in 3D had his head in his computer and earbuds in, I’m not sure how much of the ‘incident’ he got to follow. So instead of looking at him I tried to analyse expressions from some of the other passengers around us. People had stopped reading and were now looking around. Again. Again. And continuously. Nobody never wants to panic, our flights’ passengers were no exception. The expression on the faces of the flight attendants revealed worried minds; no smiling, no talking, no direct eye contact. Of course, they too could not have a clue about what was going on. Now the guy in 3D had pulled out his earbuds and closed his laptop. He looked a me while I hurried to look out the window, trying not to show my concern.

The seat belt sign remained on till arrival, the flight staff had been kept seated all along. Those 20-something minutes were, as you can imagine, very long.

We finally landed and I looked so much forward to getting an explanation on what had been going on up there. Convinced to get it I happily stepped aside on the aircraft’s doorstep, waiting to get to talk with someone. The purser approached me and kindly asked if there was anything she could do for me. Yes, I said, and asked what had happened.

Nothing, she promptly answered. I figured I’d probably not explained myself well enough or that she hadn’t understood my question, so I asked again, pointing out the details: “When we were up in the air at around 20 minutes of flying there was a very loud ‘”PHOOOOOH”. Seconds after the captain put on the seat belt sign, told you and your colleagues to take your seats, you literally ran back with your trolleys, your faces were pale, you avoided eye contact and kept seated for the rest of the flight till landing when the seat belt sign was turned back off”. So, I actually got a bit scared and would really like to know what happened?”

“Nothing happened” she replied with a smile kindly nodding her head with a ‘gotta-go-nod’.

So I took off. And since that day I’ve been scared. I’m telling you, that is really awful. Flying that much and going over the ‘if I die now’ rituals several times a month. I always do my outmost to keep a positive mind -actually, my mind does it by itself- so, I think this fear is surely good for a very important matter; it has taught me, and is continuing to teach me, that now is now, tomorrow might never come. And it daily fills me with gratitude of all the wonderfulness life has given me.

Two days ago on the flight back from Bergamo til Copenhagen, an approx. 2-hours flight, we had turbulence half of the time. All live-and-die-thoughts went through my head for the 5th time in the last month, so I’m just like, I really think that I learned the gratitude-lesson and is there anyhow I could pass on to the next level and get rid of my anxiety? I will go and see a therapist but I’m not ready for it yet because such therapists, specialising in fear of flying; what if they trick me into getting rid of my anxiety without me really understanding what this is about? So I know its about not being in control and that scares the hell out of humen beings. But I really need to hear how other people feel about this. So many people fly much more than me, many people even on a daily basis? Are such people afraid too or are they just cool?

Wine Science is a Toddler

Factors that have led to significant rise in alcohol levels in many Californian wines over the last 20 years

Higher °Brix levels and climate change

Parker

US wine consumption and novice drinkers

Advantages and disadvantages of higher alcohol levels

Wine science is a toddler

“Too Much of a Good Thing”? – A study on sugar rise in grapes

Contributing factors, a tale of coincidences, or both?

 Back in 2005, Jancis Robinson posted an abridged version of an article written for California Grapevine by wine writer Dan Berger, addressing that a clear majority of Californian wines in the 1980’s; specifically 1986-1988 (tasted by California Grapevine) had in-between 13,0 and 13,8 % abv. (e.g. 1986 Fetzer, Barrel Select (13,85 abv) and Shafer, Hillside Select 13,0% abv (1)) and that above 14% abv wines were rare sights.

Comparing these times lighter wine styles to the much bolder, riper, fuller-bodied and higher in alcohol ones of the 2000s, the point was that too much alcohol would kill the elegance of a wine together with the compatibility of pairing it with food simply because more alcohol in wines means lower acidity, and as a rule of thumb wines need acidity if they are supposed to go with food.

Dan Berger wrote the article few days after he’d attended a symposium staged by the Carneros Quality Alliance (CQA) where the main focus was ‘grape ripeness and what constituted it’. At the event David Graves of Saintsbury was moderator. He opened the venue stating:

In the early 1980s, we all heard of the term ‘food wines’, which were wines that were supposed to go with food. They were balanced and had less explosive power. Today, we have wines with alcohol levels that are much higher than we have ever had before. Why are alcohol levels so high? Why is fruit being picked at higher Brix than we ever picked at before? Can we tolerate such alcohol levels? Wine styles are a human creation. We can make decisions that affect wine style in a great way (1).

 

Higher °Brix levels and climate change

Graves asks ‘why are alcohol levels so high’ and actually responds to one of the fundamental reasons for it himself by stating that fruit is picked at higher °Brix levels than before (at least, generally. At a seminar given by Vinquiry in 2006 entitled “24° and above: Creating High Impact Wines From Ultra-ripe Fruit”, wine expert and VP of Global Wine and Brand Education at Beam Wine Estates, pointed out that flabby, tasty but not food-friendly wine with high brix levels and tannins were made in the 1970s and in the 1980s too (2)).

While’ climate change’ in many forums is easily attributed the main reason for grape fruit picked at higher °Brix it’s important to remember (like Graves also said: “Wine styles are a human creation”) that different viticultural practises in the vineyard and measures in the vinification and treatment processes in the wineries can be applied to avoid final wines containing too high levels of alcohol. There are also companies that specialize in removing alcohol from wine (e.g. ConeTech and Wine Secrets (3)). So climate change or not, maybe, some vignerons actually do wish to produce wines with high alcohol content.

 

Parker

Most of us have heard about wine critic Robert Parker and the ‘Parker’-trend, which he seemingly initiated. A trend being about how he (and others) favoured full-bodied, high-alcohol/sweeter, fruitier/riper, ‘easier’ and faster-to-drink wines when giving scores (from around the 1990s and onwards), over earlier times’ preferred wine styles, like wines from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980’s. Many of such wines had lower alcohol, higher acidity and some instant fruit. But were less immediately ripe. Meaning you had to wait years to enjoy their full potential. In terms of getting to experience a glass of wine well-balanced by having had time to age and thus having allowed fruit to further mature and tannins to become smooth. All held together by acidity with PH-levels around 3,3-3,5/3,6 at picking.

So considering the style of many of the 90+ wines scored by Parker (high alcohol, sweeter, fuller-bodied, richer wines), bought and seemingly largely liked by consumers (they keep on buying them), it appears as wine at it’s core, basically belonging to the category of FMCG, wins. In contrast to being perceived by the consumer as part of the ‘SlowFood/SlowWine’ movement, which would allow time for wine to become. (Apparently) For a large group of consumers, the time needed is nor not in their posses and more importantly nor is the need yet understood. And this phenomena seems to be a dog biting it’s own tail.

 

US wine consumption and novice drinkers

In the US, wine consumption per-capita has gone from 1,89 gallons in 1996 to 2,94 in 2016 (4) (although there was an important increase/decrease from 1976-1995: from 1,73 gallons in per-capita consumption in 1976 topping at 2,43 in 1986, decreasing all the way down at 1,77 in 1995).

According to Dan Berger, a significant reason for this increase is that a great number of novice drinkers, with a passion for “soft, flat-and-flabby wines” has chosen wine as a beverage too and their lack of interest in “crisp and dry”, has become a paradigm for marketing departments aiming to deliver what the market seems to demand (1).

With this referral I do not wish to state that novice drinkers are unreachable, not at all. If nobody has ever told you or educated you and you don’t know how beautiful a wine made ‘old style’ becomes when it peaks (e.g. a wine with grapes picked at 20-21 °Brix, en garde with regards to phenolic matureness and PH-levels at 3,3-3,4) and how such an experience emotionally can make you reach significant levels of joy, appreciation and a feeling of ‘being part of something very special’, how would you know? Why shouldn’t you like something that actually does taste well too, it might have high alcohol but it’s smooth, full-bodied, fruity, rich and sweeter (our brains looooove sweets), and it’s often cheaper too. So might you say, who cares about drinking ‘old-styled’, sophisticated or emotional ‘elite’-wines?

I absolutely don’t think it’s odd that consumers pick wines based on what wine critics and their own wallets tell them. What I on the contrary could find -not odd, but sad- is the general lack of information on the beautifulness delivered by ‘old styled wines’ –the ones in the middle of fine wine selling at extremely high prices and the ones killed by alcohol (it stands to reason that some fine wines (e.g. in Bordeaux) also have rising well above 14% abv, but despite Chateaux like Margaux and La Mission Haut Brion who both have hit 15% abv in some vintages (5), such wines are much less seen as they are in California).

Of course I know that at first hand this way of thinking is not very commercial, wines in-between would cost the consumer more and need more of his or her time. But it would be wonderful if the wine press would start hyping the elegant expressions of ‘old styled wines’ more, educating people and explaining about the differences.

 

Advantages and disadvantages of higher alcohol levels

Not only in the name of romanticism, indeed importantly too because higher levels of alcohol has some significant disadvantages. For instance, people consume much more alcohol by glass than previous. The correct level of abv is absolutely not always what the wine label says, so consumers cannot be sure of how much alcohol they’re actually consuming. Important test are being performed on every single bottle that enters Canada destined Ontario by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) (LCBO has monopoly on all wine imports to Ontario) and measuring the actual alcohol content in the wines is one of the things LCBO tests for.

Data from 1990-2008 shows noteworthy discrepancies of 0,72 % abv (bottles with indication of a 12,63% abv actually contained 13,35% abv) (3).

In the US there’s a +/- tolerance of 1,5% for wines with until 14% abv and a +/- tolerance of 1,0% for wines above 14% abv, so the difference between the claimed content on the label with what was actually in it is legal, but still very misleading to the destined target, the consumers.

Other disadvantages is the fact that the longer the grapes ripen on the vines, as in quite late in their growing cycle, the more raisiny they get, thus the farer away from their original varietal characteristics (1) and finally high-alcohol wines are less food-friendly.

Nothing is so bad that it isn’t good for something else. As disadvantages’ positive counterpart I should therefore mention that wines with higher alcohol are bolder, richer, more fruit driven and easier to understand. And many are also cheaper. In this context it’s however important to say that high alcohol wines with high scores given by Parker often are in the ultra-premium and premium market, and such wines aren’t necessarily cheap. But (some) wine producers in the lower price categories, witnessing how “Parker-wines” have sold, has followed suit imitating the higher alcohol trend by making equal samples, sold at much lower prices compared to the premium and ultra-premium wine categories (3). Talking about money, that’s where ‘wine science’ comes into the picture

 

Wine science is a toddler

Wine science, as we know it today, might seem as if it’s been around forever, but it’s actually only a toddler. This can very well be the reason why resources with regards to education and explanation (or lack of same) post-Parker are spent primarily promoting FMCG and in the end thus a contributing factor to why sugar levels in grapes at picking has risen.

Like it or not, significant sums of money in the category of FMCG are at stake and wines here are easier understood (needless to say, significant sums of money are at stake too in the business of fine wine selling at thousands of dollars per case, but that’s another segment of the wine business and another category of consumers). Just as it takes time to wait for an old-styled-produced wine to peak, it takes time to educate. It takes time to ‘convince’ (explaining, educating) consumers to spend much more money on one bottle of wine. So the wine business as a whole need time too, and of course willingness, to get started at educating and explaining. For instance the remarkable difference between a commercial (+) 15% Cali-Bordeaux blend and a 12,5 to tops 13,5% old-styled produced Bordeaux (once upon a time common styles of Bordeaux wines contained 12-12,5% abv, in 1948 Mouton Rothschild was even all the way down at the minimum of 10,5 abv (5)).

50-60 years ago the wine industry as a whole didn’t have a quarter of the wisdom that has been achieved, shared and educated on till this day. No need to talk about the luxury of “having experience” in the wine trade, which was reserved for true scholars only. And some approx. 40 years ago, in 1981, California wine bearing acreage (278,935 acres (3)) was only around half of todays 560,000 acres (total wine bearing acreage in 2016 (6) – so wine production and consumption was much lower) and Davis, The University of California, had only recently (in 1955 (7:p.5) started up their experimental 40 acres of vineyards in Oakville for research and education.

Wine science as we know of it today, is quite new (“wine science” is a wide term e.g. including the knowledge of how higher density plantings generally provide for better crops, how special trellising systems are better suited in one area and in another not, how special rootstocks are better suited for some varietals and for others not, how a style of wine is achieved or avoided, how to handle pests, diseases, and much more).

Following these thoughts another question pops up; what about US federal alcohol taxes? The higher the alcohol content (abv) the higher the tax rate. Wines containing up till 14% abv are taxed USD$1.07 per gallon and wines exceeding 14% (until 21%), 1.57.

Why would wine producers want to pay higher taxes? If you make, lets say, 100.000 gallons (379.000 litres) of wine a year, USD$0,5 per gallon, as in USD$50.000 start to matter. Even if US novice drinkers (75% of California wine is sold in America (8:p.128)) prefer soft and flabby wines over tart and dry, why make them wines so high, exceeding 14% abv?

 

“Too Much of a Good Thing”? – A study on sugar rise in grapes

A very interesting study from 2011 conducted by Davis Professor Julian M. Alston and colleagues sheds some light into this exact matter:

From 1980 till 2007/2008 a significant physical change occurred in California. There was a shift from producing white grapes (containing less sugar at picking) to use red and ‘premium’ quality varietals (containing higher sugar at picking) and California wine-bearing acreage went up with approx. 60% from 278,935 acres in 1980 till 445,472 acres in 2007 (and from 1980-2016 it doubled (4)). The counties in which acreage grew the most were

–       The Delta with 185% (from 17,355 acres in 1981 till 49,558 in 2008)

–       The North Coast with 128% (from 55,474 acres in 1981 till 87,726 in 2008)

–       The Central Coast with 100% (from 41,015 acres in 1981 till 8,600 in 2008)

–       And finally the county in which acreage grew the least; San Joaquin Valley by only 8,5% (up with 12,422 acres in 2008 added to the original around half of California’s total 278,935 wine acres in 1981)

In 1981 a mere 50% of all California wine grape acreage was located in district 14, the Southern Joaquin Valley. By 2008 this number had shrivelled to a little more than 33%.

In 2008 San Joaquin Valley was responsible for producing 61% of California’s total harvest but received only a little less than 27% of the revenue while the North Coast was responsible for producing well under 10% of the state’s total harvest and received 38%.

In 2008 Napa delivered 2,4 tons of Cabernet per acre while district 14 delivered 15,1

In 2008 the average price of a ton of Napa grown Cabernet Sauvignon went at USD$4,648. In district 14 the price was USD$363

It’s surely a better business to grow grapes in the much cooler North Coast than in San Joaquin Valley. But there’s more.

Even though one could be tempted to think that ‘climate change’ have made the San Joaquin Valley much hotter than it already was and thus make it even more thinkable that grapes grown here would be subject to end up as wines with high alcohol content, an important study (Bar-Am, 2012, in process (3)) tells that the average min. temperature rose by 2,5 °C from the 1930s to the beginning of the 21stCentury. These temperature changes have been most evident from around the 1990s. When we talk about a rise in alcohol levels, wines from the 1990s are also considered (rising sugar content in California wine became evident in the 1990s and throughout the first decade of the 21st century (3). So the Joaquin Valley, starting to show signs in the 1990s of having higher minimum temperatures, could well make one think that grapes are picked at higher °Brix levels. The story is very different.

Davis Professor Julian M. Alston and colleagues developed a calculation model taking into account wine grape production, quality, yields and other parameters such as a grower’s variable profit per acre of wine grapes depending on district and more, to examine the reasons behind rising sugar content in wine grapes.

What they found was that it doesn’t seem as growers of wine in the San Joaquin Valley wish to exceed the tax ceiling that hits wines containing more than 14% alcohol. Maybe because Vignerons in district 14, paying USD$ 363 per ton of Cabernet Sauvignon, simply cannot afford to pay the extra USD$ 0,5 per gallon that comes with higher alcohol content. So despite climate change, the idea of Alston and colleagues is that in the San Joaquin Valley they aim to pick at lower brix levels.

Equally very interesting, Alston and colleagues found that crushed grapes from the premium zones (Napa and Sonoma in particular) with higher brix levels sell at higher rates.

So growers in Napa and Sonoma, unlike growers in S.J. Valley, do wish to grow grapes with higher sugar content. At the end resulting in higher alcohol levels in the final wine.

 

Contributing factors, a tale of coincidences, or both?

If this reasoning explains why growers in premium counties wish to grow grapes with higher sugar content -they simply make more money- we still haven’t come to an understanding of why the high brix-level trend started in the first place. Was it Parker? Was it ‘climate change’? Was it the wine business’ lack of education on FMCG vs SlowWine?

By now it seems unlikely that ‘climate change’ is the cause, given the fact that growers in hot San Joaquin Valley (despite 2,5 °C average warmer minimum temperatures since the 1930’s) are capable of avoiding wines exceeding 14% abv.

A number of contributing factors to rising sugar levels in wine grapes at harvest have been suggested throughout recent years such as plantings at higher densities and new trellising systems. In the 1980s and 1990s Napa and Sonoma suffered a phylloxera infestation. The once highly recommended AxR rootstock was suddenly no longer resistant and came under attack by the louse resulting in Napa and Sonoma wine makers having to execute extensive replanting of vineyards (as well as new plantings of vineyards due to increased demand) (3).

Some wine makers point at the new rootstocks planted in the 1990’s being the cause of rising sugar levels, indicating that sugar ripeness arrives prior to phenolic matureness, resulting in longer hang times on the vines and thus higher alcohol levels in the final wine. Rising sugar content in California wine became evident in the 1990s and throughout the first decade of the 21st century. So the coincidence with new rootstocks in Napa and Sonoma that was carried out through the mid 1980s till mid 1990s, and the impressions from some wine makers that they reach sugar ripeness prior to phenolic matureness and thus hang on the vines for longer, could be a reason for why grapes started to be picked at higher °Brix levels, simply a coincidence.

And the reason why Parker started favour such wines, could simply be a coincidence of how he sincerely preferred FMCG over SlowWine.

Maybe his taste buds were not in conspiracy with the whole wine trade, manipulatively thinking of how ultra-premium and premium wine makers methods would inspire their colleagues in the lower segment to make basic *FMCG wines a-like, which would be able to appeal to US novice drinkers and thus make a lot of money. A thought and a topic also difficult to speculate in giving the fact that by 1995 the annual per-capita consumption was down at 1,77 gallons, novice drinkers had fallen steadily since 1986. The wave of American novice drinkers started off again in 1996. It is of course likely that these new comers, when buying/liking wine, could tend to follow the advice of wine critics like Parker. Today it shows that they actually did. Every 3 out of 4 bottles of Californian wine is sold in America, a lot of these wines have high levels of alcohol, so there’s a great market for high alcohol California wines

Since there are no studies suggesting exact evidence for why sugar levels have risen throughout the last 20+ years, I have come to think that the factors for rising sugar levels in many Californian wines are likely to due a series of coincidences starting with the phylloxera infestation in Napa and Sonoma in the 1980’s.

 

* “Basic FMCG wines, compared to ultra-premium and premium wines, which by the end of the day are of course also within the FMCG-category. Strictly speaking, so are fine wines even though they are surely also in the segment of “Luxury Goods”.

What I would like is a category in-between FMCG and Luxury Goods called SlowWine. I don’t think it already exist as a defined term (like FMCG and Luxury Goods)

  

Bibliography

(1)                 https://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/how-california-wines-have-changed

(2)                 https://www.winebusiness.com/wbm/?go=getArticle&dataId=45459

(3)                 http://www.wine-economics.org/aawe/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Vol.6-No.2-2011-Too-Much-of-a-Good-Thing-.pdf

(4)                 https://www.wineinstitute.org/resources/statistics/article86

(5)                 http://www.decanter.com/wine-news/opinion/guest-blog/alcohol-in-bordeaux-wine-376309/

(6)              https://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/California/Publications/Grape_Acreage/

(7)                 Desimone, Mike., Jenssen, Jeff. Wines of California. Special Deluxe Edition, 2014. Canada: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.

(8)                 Robinson, Jancis., Harding, Julia. Oxford Companion to wine. 4th edition, 2015. Slovakia: Oxford University Press

North Coast California: How prestigious wineries’ recognition came along and how these wineries challenge old world counterparts

It started with better varietals
Then viticulture and wine making techniques improved
Finally international competitions paved the way for world wide Cali-wine recognition

It started with better varietals

From the 17th til the 19th century only 1 grape was grown in California; the Mission grape. But in the 19th century, more precisely in 1833, Bordeaux-born Jean-Louis Vignes had Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc shipped in from his home country because he didn’t fancy the quality of wines made with the at the time available material. And ever since wine producers, consultants and likewise like Michel Rolland and Christian Moueix have passed on the torch of Jean-Louis, thus continuing the French wine making influence in California (1:p.2)

Then viticulture and wine making techniques improved

After Jean-Louis came several other crucially talented people, among these Hungarian-born Agoston Haraszthy, generally credited as the “Father of Californian Viticulture” and the man who had more than 150 different vine cuttings imported from Europe’s great vineyards to California. He hired Prussian Charles Krug (who had worked for John Patchett, the man who opened Napa’s first winery in 1858) (1: p.3). Charles had arrived to the country only in 1852 as a 27-year-old, without nothing more than “a pioneering spirit and a willingness to work hard” (2). In 1861 he founded the winery “Charles Krug” (1: p.3) which is today run by part of the Mondavi family. Run by part of the Mondavi family because in 1943, Italian immigrants Rosa and Cesare Mondavi bought the winery for their sons Robert and Peter and started developing quality in the vineyards and winemaking techniques (2). Robert later left his family’s winery in 1965 (1:p. 5) to establish one of his own -which he did in 1966- determined to “create Napa Valley wines that would stand in the company of the world’s finest” (3).


Krug-protégés Karl Wente and Jacob Beringer who both bought lands of their own and founded wineries in the late 19th century, Jacob Beringer being the oldest continually operating Napa Valley-winery (one of approx. 100 allowed to continue production throughout the 1920-33 Prohibition period. Before Prohibition 2500 wineries operated) (1:p. 3), also helped to the improvements by producing and passing on what they’d learn from Krug.


As phylloxera devastated Europe, Farmers from Italy, Spain, Croatia and France were forced to abandon their vineyards and seek work elsewhere. Northern California became a preferred destination for many and with that, important knowledge on viticulture and wine technique were brought to the country (1:p. 3)


Winemaker, mentor and influencer André Tchelistcheff is too credited to have done his part on the improvements in the state. In 1938 Beaulieu winery’s founder, George de Latour, met Tchelistcheff at the French National Agronomy Institute and offered him a job as chief winemaker back in Napa Valley. Tchelistcheff is among the first to have aged wines in French oak focusing on premium quality Cabernet Sauvignon, as well is he known to have contributed importantly with regards to understand and implement now-a-days common wine techniques, such as MLF, cool fermentation and vineyard protection (although cool fermentation is credited to have been introduced to California by Peter Mondavi Sr) (1:p. 4-5).


In 1955 UC Davis acquired land for wine research and education. Many of the University’s best students are today’s notable wine makers and wine managers. These talented people have also helped greatly to the wine improvement in California as well as to the revolution that was about to rise: Post-Prohibition and post-WW2 fortified wines were cheaper than light wines and dominated the domestic market (1: p. 5). But in the 1960s an interest towards French cuisine took hold of the Americans when Julia Child started appearing on National TV promoting her -and the country’s first- step-by-step cookbook (4) leading to a development in consumer taste buds preferring dry wine over sweet and fortified ones (1: p. 5)


Right after Prohibition in 1933, Ernest and Julio Gallo founded their winery and by 1960 (and ever since) theirs was (and is) thee largest brand throughout the country while Robert Mondavi, who had left his father’s estate in 1965, was focusing on varietal wines made from Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. In the wake of 20th century pioneers, like these two important ones: Gallo and Mondavi, operating wineries in the state 15-folded from 232 in 1965 throughout the following 50 years (1: p. 5)

 

Finally international competitions paved the way for world wide Cali-wine recognition 

Thanks to improved viticulture and wine techniques, in the late 19th century and early 20th century Californian wines started participating in international competitions. And started winning important medals like when the first American Bordeaux-styled wine won gold for “Captain Gustave Niebaum’s Inglenook Wine” at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1889. (1:p.4)

Then in 1976 something completely spectacular happened. Today’s Decanter journalist Steven Spurrier, then a Paris-based wine merchant, organised the famous “Judgement of Paris” competition on May, 24 (1: p. 5), a competition which has become an important piece of wine history and Cali-wine’s take-off to reach world wide wine recognition. ‘

A blind tasting was set up to confront premium quality Californian Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon with premium quality Burgundy white and the finest Bordeaux-reds: Calistoga-Napa Valley Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 1973 beat Beaune Clos des Mouches 1973 made by Joseph Drouhin, Ramonet-Prudhon Batard-Montrachet 1973 and Domanine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet les Pucelles 1972. The winning red wine was Cabernet Sauvignon 1973 from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars which beat wines such as Mouton-Rothschild and Haut-Brion (1: p. 5-6). 

The fact that a Californian, New World wine, was able to beat the world’s most recognised, well-established and sought after wines in 1976 has since then till today become a challenge to the Old World counterparts by default. Because if other places in the world (besides especially France) are capable of fostering world-class premium quality, then anyone in the right conditions for making high quality wine can win. Right conditions like adequate viticulture and wine technique skills, location, money and patience. 

(1) Desimone, Mike., Jenssen, Jeff. Wines of California. Special Deluxe Edition). Canada: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.

(2) https://www.charleskrug.com/estate/people

(3) https://www.robertmondaviwinery.com/About-Mondavi

(4) https://www.biography.com/people/julia-child-9246767

How much S… can you handle?

Do you recall that morning when you woke up and thought, “YES, I got it, I so got it, I will, I will, I will do this, I will thrive, I will sell, I can do it, I AM doing it, I’m a success: I think I’m a success!”

– And that’s actually how it is, what you think, what you believe in, it’s what’s driving you and how you’re living your life?

That’s the time of my life right now, it took me forever to get here, I’m only in process and if you didn’t get to that point yet yourself you might be blocked by doubts.

While, in all my enthusiasm, I’m getting ever more focused on how to optimize and get a whole bunch of stuff done (because business wise, that is what you need to do if you wish to go and get somewhere), thus figuring out when I have my greatest days -e.g. when I get through my lists, one of my success criteria- compared to when my days are just normal/good (I force myself to insist on good days only as a minimum, life’s too precious to settle with less), others might think:

“Well, first of all I didn’t yet get to the “I think I’m a success”-point. And I do have good and great days but I sure too have all the bad, terrible and mediocre ones as well”

 

They’ll keep coming back

Stop it

You just jumped off

Failure and rejection versus reinforcement of self-esteem

 

They’ll keep coming back

Right – you have great and good days but so absolutely too terrible, bad and mediocre ones. What do you do about those days? – Or let me re-phrase that; what do you do about those feelings, those thoughts? Do you just lean over, waiting for another sunrise to come along, hoping they’ll pass by themselves?

They won’t. They’ll keep coming back until you throw them out. And that’s of course all in your mind-set. It’s in your thoughts. Your thoughts control your feelings, your feelings your days and your days – how do you wanna put this? – How much stuff you get done? Or ‘how much s… you can handle’?

And if you don’t get a lot of stuff done and if you can’t handle a lot of s…, but you’d like to, then it could be because you have too much doubt towards yourself. That’s what I used to have. Combined with not exactly being sure of what I really wanted to succeed in!

If you choose the first phrase: How much stuff you get done? Can you hear there’s a kind of positive ring to it? Negativity is not present, of course it depends on the tone, but it’s quite an easy question to ask in a calm and tranquil way. And asking in a calm and tranquil way is wise to go with, because as you probably know, it’s best when negativity is absent. Negativity is unable to be alone and draws anything down with it.

“How much stuff do you get done”, is a rather polite, direct and ok question to ask yourself, wouldn’t you say? It’s not nagging, un-engaging or disrespectful, which is unfortunately ‘normally’ often a way many people doubting themselves happen to discuss matters like these, with themselves. Being drawn by negativity will never get you anywhere near the places positivity will bring you, be it wherever you wish to go in life. Numerous scientific studies have proven this for decades, over and over again.

The second phrase: How much s… can you handle? There’s a kind of edge to it. It’s more dynamic. ‘In-your-face’. Kind of driven by adrenalin of some sort. And even if a ‘dirty’ word is present I wouldn’t call it offensive.

I would rather categorize the line as a positive-meant comment to help you react or at least think. So think about these two ways of approaching yourself when looking for answers; use the first one if you’re more fragile and the second if you’re ready for a loving but firm kick in the butt to push you ahead.

 

Stop it

Doubting is a double-edged sword, it can both be good and act as a trigger to make you think powerful stuff like “I’ll show you, I’ll show them – or even better; “I’ll God d… it show ME – I can HANDLE this”!

When doubt is bad it captures you and keeps on holding you in a grip of iron repeating doubtful sentences created by your own doubtful thoughts often created by other’s doubtful opinions. And ‘the others’ doubtful opinions are often created in their own minds due to other of their acquaintances doubtful opinions about them and so on and on and on.

Do you know what to do about such situations?

Stop it!

Just Stop It. Stop those doubtful thoughts, if you have them. That can be difficult. You’re right, that’s why I’m writing this:

Imagine you, a bunch of doubtful people around, a trampoline, no security net, no knowledge of destination, only an assuredness to anyone setting off that it’ll be a soft landing somewhere out there. And why is a soft landing? Well, why shouldn’t it be? Thinking anything else is negative and the wrong lane to pick.

All the doubtful people; you can see them. They can’t see you. Until you jump.

Get out on your imaginary trampoline.

Start tiny-jumping, just a little. The trampoline starts to move, just a little. Have a good look at all the doubtful people. Now your jumping’s intensifying. You feel comfortable. You feel safe, you trust yourself. You believe in yourself; you managed to get out on the trampoline.

Your jumping is getting higher. Your adrenalin starts pumping. You’re… getting there. You’re getting ready to jump. You keep jumping higher and higher, you really want to jump now.

But you also want to cherish this incredible moment of fearlessness, power and feelings of freedom. Your freedom, your own will power, your fearlessness.

 

You just jumped off

As you jumped all the doubtful people saw you. They saw a courageous individual. They don’t know you, they just saw somebody who had the guts to jump off the trampoline without knowing where to land.

So doubt is good when there’s an imaginary trampoline forcing you to jump forward in your life. As you get your butt up on that trampoline ‘doubt’ is kicked off the same moment you jump, I promise! Because you just beat it.

It will show it’s doubtful face once in a while, but that’s ok, now you have an imaginary trampoline, it can not cope with an imaginary trampoline.

Doubt is bad when it keeps you from making it to the trampoline. When you don’t make it to the trampoline it’s because doubtful questions has been put on repeat in your mind. Turn them off.

So doubt will come back. Absolutely, it will. Doubt is basically human, humble and requires patience, very important traits to have -in my opinion, some of the most important basics for a successful life personally and professionally. Doubt is normal and important to our processes. It’s just not meant to be your boss. You are your own boss, features like doubt are not supposed to control who you’d like to be or where you’d like to go, doubt is present to make you understand better if something is right or wrong. And when you get out there, ahead and up, doubt returns to keep you from becoming a jack*ss.

It’s all in the balance of how you use doubt because in the end it will or add to or take from the total sum of (y)our self-esteem.

  

Failure and rejection versus reinforcement of self-esteem

Psychiatrist and philosopher (& wine lover <3) Neel Burton has written an excellent book “Heaven and Hell: The Psychology of the Emotions” where he among many other things explains the meaning of “self-esteem” (this peace is an adaption from the book and part of an article he wrote for Psychologytoday.com) :

“Esteem” is derived from the Latin aestimare, meaning “to appraise, value, rate, weigh, estimate,” and self-esteem is our cognitive and, above all, emotional appraisal of our own worth. More than that, it is the matrix through which we think, feel, and act, and reflects and determines our relation to ourselves, to others, and to the world.

People with a healthy self-esteem (…) treat themselves with respect and take care of their health, community, and environment. They are able to invest themselves completely in projects and people because they do not fear failure or rejection. (1)

The words speak for themselves.

One thing I consider poison when it comes to doubt is the lack of self-esteem dressed as fear of failure and rejection, fear of getting up on the trampoline and jump off.

In order to defeat ‘others’ doubtful opinions, in order to get rid of bad, terrible and mediocre days and get to good, great and the I believe I’m a success-stage, it’s crucial to consider this important link;

How much of (your) doubt is bounded in fear of failure or rejection, whether or not you know in what you’d like to succeed in life? And if it’s a lot, maybe the trampoline exercise can help you face such fears.

Remember, if you can visualise it you can do it. You learn light years of life experience from your failures and much less from your successes. People –all the doubtful ones, will forget about your failures, if they ever notice them in the first place. Doubtful people are busy being doubtful. They don’t matter. Get on that trampoline!

 

(1) https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201510/self-confidence-versus-self-esteem)

Collisioni Festival – The Wine Project

Collisioni Festival is a tribute to Food, Music, Art, WINE and a reminder to where Will Power, Dreams and Visions will bring you when you believe hard enough

Huge well-organized Street Party in the heart of tiny Barolo

Collisioni Expert Panel

Visions and Will Power 

Nike says: #Justdoit

___________________________________________________________________________________________

From July 16th – 19th I had the huge privilege of being invited by Ian D’Agata to be part of his expert panel at this years’ Collisioni Festival together with another 60-70 wine professionals from around the world (sommeliers, journalists, buyers and restaurateurs). Our purpose was to taste, evaluate and hopefully like the many hundreds of wines presented during the whole period of Collisini Festival (from July 12th – 19th). What I hadn’t seen coming was it being an eye-opener making me remember what can be accomplished when you truly believe in your product and yourself.

Huge well-organized Street Party in the heart of tiny Barolo

Collisioni Festival is a tribute to food, music, art and wine founded by Ian D’Agata and Filippo Taricco – making these 4 arts come together under the heating sun of the Langhe in mid July. Well, it’s actually a huge very well-organised street party in the heart of tiny little Barolo village (very charming) gathering thousands of appassionati together with some of the best wine producers of Italy, big musicians as Robbie Williams (in 2016 Elton John guest starred and in 2015 Sting), Italy’s Renato Zero, grandi and very sympathetic chefs like Antonino Cannavacciuolo, Joe Bastianich (he was there with his band), actor Matt Dillon, Chinese born (Nobel Prize winner in 2000) writer, artist and critic Gao Xingjian and many, many more.

I loved the Festival. The food, the music and especially the atmosphere and think if it’s such a success today it can only be because the founders worked they’re butts off to make it become so (last year more than 100.000 people visited). They seem to manage to make all ends meet by a huge contribution from partners and sponsors (I doubt revenue from ticket sales would ever be enough), big names like Lavazza, Algida, Regione Piemonte, Danish Tuborg and a significant number of others, including numerous wine producers opting in hoping to get heard in the crowd – and thankfully Italian wine producers are getting heard here; a fair 80% of all the wines I tasted myself were wines from houses I didn’t even knew existed. Had I not attended the Festival they would for now have remained unknown to me. According to Osservatorio del Vino there were 310.000 wine-producing companies in Italy in 2015 reaching a total volume of around 50 million hectolitres. It’s therefore difficult to keep track with all the wonderful different wines and producers Italy has to offer.

 

Collisioni Expert Panel

I loved being part of the Collisioni expert panel, which is actually subdivided into two parts with the board on one hand and all the others on the other. The Collisioni board are hardcore experts Ian D’Agata, Stephen Spurrier, Monty Waldin, Levi Dalton, Michele Longo, Michaela Morris, Fabio Ciarla, Samuele Callistri, Laura De Pasquale, Bernard Burtschy (and I hope I haven’t forgot anybody). On the other hand are all the rest of us, like I mentioned earlier, wine professionals from around the world. Our daily programs were very intense and lasted from early mornings to late nights, consisting of 3 highly efficient and interesting unit tastings lasting 1,5-2,5 hours each with approx. 50-60 wines per unit. Talking grapes, from the rarest and probably most non-known zones, are Valcalepio’s Moscato di Scanzo, Valle d’Aosta’s Fumin , Pecorino from Abruzzo and sweet Primitivo della Manduria from more known Apulia. I enjoyed the tasting of the Basilicata’s Aglianico del Vulture tremendously and the samples from Sicily, but all the wines I had were basically minimum acceptable, many were good and some much more than that, they all deserve a description and to be written about, so I will publish all my tasting notes within the next couple of weeks on my webpage under the section “Tasting Notes”.

After the day-program, at night, we were escorted to different wineries where we not only had great opportunities to explore our viticultural horizons, talking with producers, enologists, marketing people and more but we also had exquisite 4 and 5 course dinners established right there, in a kind of middle-of-the-vineyard-experience, and everything just worked smoothly. I was quite impressed by this, exquisite experiences. I loved the visit and dinner we had at the beautiful estate Poderi Luigi Einaudi in Dogliani owned by late Luigi Einaudi’s (Italy’s first President of the Republic in 1948) grandsons, two wonderful and very generous brothers. It’s mainly big brother Matteo Sardegna who’s in charge, and remember, wine is personal – if you fall in love with the wine makers you’ll get an instant crush on their wines too, of course Einaudi is now to find on our wine list at lenoteca.dk. Also the visit at Rivetto – owned and runned by an energetic, enthusiastic, inspiring, biodynamic and biological growing ‘wild’ young man was fantastic (Rivetto winery was certified “biological” in 2016). We had a walk through the vineyards, listening to his philosophies of wine making, his dreams, his vision of the importance of biological and biodynamic farming to be in sync with nature and said ‘hello’ to the oldest vine I’ve ever seen and touched so far, a Barbera vine from 1944. The trunk was thicker than thick, it was beautiful.

I missed out on many other great evenings during Collisioni due to my late arrival, in particular the miss out on the Nascetta vertical tasting followed by dinner almost made me cry, I heard so much fantastic about the whole evening and was so sad not to have arrived in time to make it. But then again you can’t be everywhere and you certainly can’t get it all!  I enjoyed every mouthful and every intensive moment of all the rest.

 

Visions and Will Power 

While it’s obvious that Collisioni Festival should kind of ‘just’ make me think of what I can do to continue to push Italian wine the hardest I can, it had me go deeper and remember how far we reach, lift and make things work, when we truly want to. And when we lift together.

How we can make things happen by ‘simply’ insisting on our dreams, believing in them, ourselves and keep explaining to others why what is so important to us should be too for everybody else. And of course it works exactly the same the opposite way, if we doubt we can do it, we won’t.

It’s surely cliché, been said and heard millions of times before what I’m mentioning here again, but it doesn’t make it any less true and it doesn’t explain why so awful many of us don’t just “do it”, every b….. day. I tremendously hate to say it, but (at times) that’s still so me too. I get a lot done for sure, but I could do so much more. I probably only use approx. 15-25% of my core capacity. Holy Mama! That’s not a lot. The rest of the time I’m mainly working too but I don’t really get anything important done – what I mean, I don’t make a significant difference and that bothers me immeasurably (thank God). I think about what I ought to do, how, why and if I’m really sure that I’m good enough to do it? Am I really the right person? Do I have enough experience, shouldn’t I first be more like him or her, gone through more education and one hundred other doubtful, very less productive, stupid questions. For way too long, at least until recently, this mind-set blocked me from being what I am and what I’m capable of. And I still fall back into my old habits. When you break the code it turns out that those “stupid” questions of doubt towards yourself weren’t that stupid after all, everything’s surely a process and doubting your capacity is only human, humble, healthy and forces you to reflect. It’s just not constructive to keep on the dubiety-path for too long, the only thing thats certain there is that it’ll for sure keep you from doing. Which is how millions of people act every day – they don’t do it, they don’t live their dreams and they don’t get to become what they’d really like to simply because they don’t believe enough in themselves. That’s not ok!

 

Nike says: #Justdoit

Having a purpose and an agenda is everything. Allowing yourself to wake up any random morning and understanding “I need to do this” – “I can do this”. And do it. Remembering, before anything of any kind starts, there was nothing. I often think people forget that. When I fall into doubt-mode, remembering this is what re-boots me

Anything starts from scratch at some point. So did Collisioni, so did you, I and everything else. #Nike says #justdoit. Shall we?

Are you, yourself doing it? Believing in you and moving those mountains?

I can tell you, I am doing it. I’m doing wine and I’m doing life design.

I am wine and my life design. Collisioni made me remember that and how long it took me to get started. And that any moment is the best to get it on!

#wine #collisionifestival #justdoit #gogetyourgoal #lifedesign #puthappyonrepeat #vinitalyinternational #italianwineambassador

Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) 2017

What the #VIA Program is bringing to the World of Wine and what it should mean to the Native Italian Wine Market in Copenhagen

Few years ago Stevie Kim & Ian D’Agata decided to join forces and launch a new educational initiative: The Vinitaly International Academy Program. First edition took place in 2015.

The main purpose with the course is to pamper, nurse, protect, clean up, push, hail, praise and let people (re) discover the Italian legacy of native grapes together with the compelling range of different wines these grapes foster in the hands of now numerous talented wine producers throughout Italy.

Traditional and international grapes such as Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc & Cabernet Sauvignon have for decades been the most obvious, secure choices to grow in many commercially important parts of Italy with families to bread -Chardonnay, Cab S & F + Merlot all being well recognised among consumers, thus easier to sell.

But while consumers are getting ever more wise on wine, hence more critical to what they drink, an eagerness to extent the vinous horizon (finally) seems to have taken place. And this is where the decade long exhaustive work of people like Ian D’Agata (VIA Scientific Director) and the late Luigi Veronelli (founder of the Italian Veronelli Guide) comes into right, having dedicated significant parts of their lives to preserve and protect the authenticity of Italian agriculture.

Ian D’Agata, a man in his best age, is –besides from all the almost geek-terrifying wine stuff he stores mentally- also a trained medical doctor specialized in pediatric gastroenterology (management of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and liver) and pediatric liver transplants (!) (the exclamation point would be me unable to get over my impression) and has, among others, studied in important universities like Harvard, has won grants in cellular and molecular biology research and has taken the expertise gained from these medicine and research studies and ‘donated’ all of it to his continuing and tireless studies of The Native Grapes of Italy in all their biological essence. A path he’s now been on for +30 years.

 

The challenge of mistakenly identified grape varietals and the much needed clean up

Due to lack of other measures (like DNA-testing and biochemical methods) grapes used to be examined ampelographically (morphological visualisation of a bunch of grapes and determination of it’s organs performed only by the instrument of the human eye and the expertise belonging to who possessed that eye) until the beginning of this century. You might imagine how difficult and challenging this task has been. How do you recognize one bunch from another? They all look fairly the same, don’t they? Right, there are specific differences in between them, but I’m sure anyone who has visited a vineyard now and then -as well as plenty of times- will get my point; it can not have been easy to identify whether one certain bunch of grapes might have been Pelaverga, Vespolina or Nebbiolo. Or Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. Or Merlot (even though Merlot should be easier to recognise in the spring, it has a sort of white shoot tip that makes it different from Cabernet S & F with which it is often confused (D’Agata; 2014)).

Nevertheless the study of ampelography (in short; ‘manual’ identification of grape varietals) was and is a very precise one, being of course taking very seriously, where every detail from the bunches’ shoot tips in spring to the colours of veins are minutely examined. Nonetheless, many mistakes have been made. And a lot of work has had to be done to ‘clean up’ all the wrongly identified grapes throughout times. Unfortunately the cleaning up is definitely not over yet.

One of the biggest problems with the situation of wrongly identified grapes today occurs when a grape thought to be X (for instance, fostering one style of wine) is examined in comparison to grape Y (for instance, fostering a completely different style of wine) to figure out whether grape X and Y might or might not be the same. Scientists are capable of declaring X and Y to be in fact the same. Even though they might foster completely different wines. Appearance, aroma and flavour wise. Why could that be? Might you say, could be obvious if the grapes were cultivated in two completely different environments? You’re right. It could be. But they could also be cultivated in the same environment and still foster different wines. And scientists who have ‘proven’ them identical to each other will (most likely) remain with their conclusions. But the reason why X and Y produce completely different wines, side by side or in different environments, might well also due to an ampelographers work from back then. Who could (quite easily) have mistaken the ground material, in this example, for instance of grape X. If X wasn’t X in the first place, but an ampelographer from back then concluded it was, then scientists of today will stick to the conclusion of X being ‘X’, even though it isn’t. What are their options? Go and do all the examination of all the grapes once again. That’s one h… of task.

Let’s think of Peino Noia (Pinot Noir), like Ian says, and take one of Ian’s examples too; Peino Noia, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Bianco all look very different to everyone (one is blue, one is pink and one is white) and foster different wines. But their genetic material is the same. Or so it seems. But anyone in his right mind will argue that they can’t possibly be. They’re different! But they aren’t, say scientists…

Ok, whatever.

(Of course there’s an explanation, but it’s long and concerns (in short) how DNA testing is and can be provided. If you wish to dig deeper I suggest you buy Ian D’Agatha’s book “Native Grapes of Italy” from 2014).

All this actually also opens up another question. If so many grapes have been ampelographically mistaken in the past, how can we be sure that we’re really drinking what we think we are, when we’re having let’s say, a Barolo? Or a Barbaresco?… Well, that’s too big a question for now so I’ll let it rest.

This is all very confusing, amusing and at the same time absolutely lovely. It’s why we should be happy in Copenhagen. Because challenges like these are why Ian D’Agata has dedicated his life to Italian Native Grapes and their biological essence, stressed innumerable wine makers not to give up their sacred native vines and by all means make them native wines with all their fine material, grapes like Fenile, Picolit, Vermentino, Schioppettino and, of course, Tazzelenghe… Plus many others.

In Copenhagen we should be happy and thank ampelographers from the last century, indeed did they pave the way for today’s hungry Millennium world wine lovers, ready to look up from our main stream vanilla and chocolate flavoured glasses of wine and take our wine knowledge, passion and experience to the next level.

We should be happy in Copenhagen, because due to ampelographical challenges Ian and Stevie Kim made the VIA program possible, managing to involve wine professionals from all over the world to become completely hooked and so willingly entangled in this complicated affair of passing on the ‘new’ knowledge and understanding of these ‘new’ wines with deeper philosophies. Of nativeness.

 

Authenticity and deeper Philosophies of Wine

We know for a fact that consumers are looking for deeper purposes and interesting philosophies to attach to the wines they enjoy. Organic growth, biodynamic farming and natural wine making is for one a direction wine lovers around the world are keen on taking. Sustainability seems to be the most important value in this category, thus the reason to the rise of sales (Denmark has seen a strong growth of sales of organic wines and Fair-trade over the past years (source: Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nov 2016). In the extremely technologized, digital and increasingly robotized world we are all now living in, it makes perfect sense that core, fundamental values like how to take care of our planet, stands stronger than ever. ‘Nativeness’ is in this same league, together with the concept and usage of 0-km agriculture, both philosophies about keeping agriculture authentic. And sustainable. Authenticity is what we want, together with Sustainability + 0-km. It all goes hand in hand with Nativeness. These are the key words summing up the categories of wine and agriculture you and I and our times consumers are looking for.

It is know up to restaurateurs, hotels, wine shops, wine journalists and other good people from around the Globe to push the Italian Authentic Native Wine legacy to reach the recognition it deserves. Just like we’ve done with 0-km agriculture, sustainable natural, biodynamic and organic growth.

And it is my humble and honoured job as Scandinavia’s 1st Vinitaly International Academy Italian Wine Ambassador in the World, to pass on the knowledge I have in the field of Italian Native Grapes and the wines they foster by staying hungry and keep learning with the purity and excitement of a 5-year old, writing and teaching about what I now know and what I learn, continuing to import wines to Denmark, exposing them to the private market, to Horeca and certainly offering them to our guests at our restaurant (lenoteca.dk) on a frequent basis. And it’s my privileged job to invite all interested to follow me and the VIA Community on this journey, and become part in the manner that suits one the best.

 

The Journey has started

The journey has started and I don’t know where it’ll take us besides from right here, now and the third weekend of May 2017 (Friday 19 and Saturday 20) where I will be hosting a Franciacorta and Northern Italian White wines Dinner, to taste, discuss, enlighten our selves, and most likely meet some new lovely people too.

Tickets can be purchased by following this link: http://madbillet.dk/show/event/franciacorta-and-norditaliensk-hvidt-moeder-syden/0/0/0/english

 

 

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‘Premiumising’ Made in Italy

Can you ‘premiumise’ by lowering the prices instead of rising & gain brand recognition?

Premiumization was originally about managing to up scale a product or a service convincing customers to buy at higher prices by positioning a given brand, targeting the audience, telling a fascinating story, aspire, excelling at justifying the higher prices, keeping whatever promised and make sure to trigger both rational and emotional benefits in people’s mindsets. 

Pernod Ricard, Diageo, Clarins, Carlsberg, Noma and even Kristian Brask Thomsen did it. In the businesses of diamonds, boats, luxury watches and televisions many front leaders have managed to premiumise for decades and longer. Either by establishing a new business or continue to sell at premium prices in a current, and for some even to grow. Also during times of crisis. Noma (former Best Restaurant in the World several years in a row according to “The World’s 50 best Restaurants” by San Pellegrino) was born in 2003, few years before the US recession took hold. Noma wasn’t born Best Restaurant. It became so. On top of the 00s crisis. Completely fully booked every single night. Around 50 seats, a private 25-30 persons dining room and an annual turnover of some €3,5 million —definitely not on the low for a restaurant.

And today Elvis (René) has practically left the building —he is heading to Mexico with the crew to create another kind of Noma, a 7-week long pop op restaurant situated between the jungle and the Caribbean Sea. And Noma is no longer n. 1 —Italian Bottura in Modena is –  but the restaurant is still fully booked. For lunch and dinner. Amazing and price worthy.

In the early 10’s when everybody was still licking their wounds like cry babies (myself included) a young danish guy (former restaurateur and self-appointed Culinarian Ambassador; Kristian Brask Thomsen), created the Dining Impossible experience. The venue is about having dinner three evenings in a row in three different high-class restaurants somewhere in the world. By premiumization he managed – and still does – to gather celebrities, millionaires and ordinary foodies to join Michelin starred tables at roaring cover prices. People are not only spending important amounts on a stunning feast, people are flying in from all over the planet adding all those extra expends such activity requires.

Premium Quality – drink good or not at all

In the city of Gourmet Copenhagen in Denmark I’m part of a little authentic 35-seats family run Italian restaurant (my husband is from Naples). We serve lovely food in a heart-warming and hospitable environment with a core focus on convincing our guests to accompany their meal with Premium Quality Italian wine. Premium Quality because we’re absolutely convinced that it’s better to drink good or not at all.

15 years ago running an authentic Italian restaurant in Copenhagen was like living the American dream, you could walk on water. Sell anything labelled Italian like a doddle. Including high-end Italian wines like Brunello and Barolo in the range of €100-150. People bought not one, not two, but three, four and five bottles in the blink of an eye. What we didn’t know back then was that something was about to change. That change started some 50+ years ago when Claus Meyer was born. He is a food guy. A revolutionary one. And the spiritual father of Rene Redzepi, Mads Refslund (Noma/Acne  – if you’re in to food, you’ve probably heard about all three or one or two of them) and the New Danish/Nordic Cuisine. The trio changed the culinary scene in Denmark forever and turned the difficulty level of staying in business as a restaurateur from overwhelmingly challenging and so difficult to completely exhausting and torturous.

But competition is not only good, it’s great. Or you die or you evolve.

We were about to die. Made in Italy was no longer enough. Lovely food and great wines were no longer enough. Hospitality, heart and affection was no longer enough. Italian was no longer enough.

24 months ago, shaking like a leaf, we made a radical decision and completely downscaled the revenue of our core business product; our wines (provenu in restauration is mainly on beverage and much less on food).

Falsification of the Italian brand

We cut the prices by 30-40% off all our wines and turned the restaurant into an integrated wine shop + restaurant (Enoteca), hoping to fill up the seats. To survive.

But we also did it out of an attempt to make the Italian brand flourish. Again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Made in Italy is a stuporous brand with no market, actually the opposite is the case, never has so many Italian products been falsified worldwide, in fact almost double the Italian export. The arrival of the New Nordic/Danish Cuisine in the early 00s (The New Danish Cuisine is a component of the Nordic which aims to promote local, natural and seasonal produce) has been a huge challenge for the Italian counterpart, I repeat, nowadays it’s no longer enough just to ‘be Italian’. You need more than that, consumers are becoming ever more aware and critical. So maybe Italians were sleeping a bit to heavy and maybe it was only fair to scare Made in Italy till the blood turned cold? What goes for our family business, we are now surely awake and on to it.

But the real challenge —and the reason why we’ve lowered our prices to have something to get loud about and draw attention— might well, subconsciously, be buried in the tremendous damage the Italian brand has been exposed to; the huge falsification of Italian products, “Italian” & Made in Italy .

Made in Italy – not

The phenomena of falsifying Made in Italy has not only left consumers in a limbo state of confusion with regards to what DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta – Protected Designation of Origin) is really supposed to smell, taste or be like. It has also left many consumers with the simple (sub)conscious question: What is true Italian and what is not? What is it supposed to look like? Sell at? What’s it worth? It’s difficult to convince consumers to pay 10€ for 500 gr of Datterini, Pachino or Ciliegino DOP when they can get the falsified ‘same’ product from Holland half the price or less. Which of course have nothing to do with Meditteranean grown tomatoes. The same misery goes for falsified Mozzarella di Bufala DOP, Parmigiano Reggiano DOP, DOP Italian olive oil, pasta and more. When it comes to wine the situation is different. There is luckily (at least not officially) not a huge falsification wine wise, though there has been some serious issues, eg. Brunellogate in 2003. If it’s difficult to convince consumers to buy Brunello di Montalcino selling at €50 instead of a fruity (bulk) Nero D’Avola at 5, of course it has instantly most to do with people’s wine culture. There’s a wide gap from 5 to 50 €. The mind of a bulk Nero d’Avola wine enjoyer can however indeed be influenced and changed with time through PR, maybe too premiumization and if not today, maybe tomorrow (needless to say Siciliy is going through a viticultural revolution and now presents a very decent range of worthy examples of Nero d’Avola despite the bulk production).

Summing it up, all this leaves the Italian F&B challenge in Denmark to be a combination of the Nordic Cuisine invasion, falsification of Made in Italy, products and whether or not you have thriving marketing skills with the ability to evolve.

Tradition vs Inventions – Invaded by the Nordic Cuisine

In a Danish market where citizens and tourists are completely blinded by the tremendously strong New Nordic Cuisine trend (its vague concept despite, it’s difficult to build a deep-rooting food culture on ten years of existence and local produce like different herbs, herbs and herbs), anything that is not ‘Nordic’ is destined to be challenged. Might you say it’s only fair that a Nordic Cuisine is leading in its own country. Absolutely. But we all enjoy diversity and good meals. Room for different cuisines is therefore a blessing to anyone who beliefs in this, that of course doesn’t mean that your right to survive as a restaurateur side-a-side with Noma and all the other Nordic restaurants is protected by default. It isn’t, nor should it be. What is actually going on is us (all other Cuisines) and them (the Danish/Nordic one) having a good old-fashioned competition.

It’s called ’Tradition vs Inventions’. Not innovation. Pure inventions.

Danish chefs want a culture of their own. Fully understandable but not on the expends of DOP. Not that it was ever in their intention to cause any harm to us or anybody else, it just happened. As a natural result of evolving.

You might invent the Danish Cuisine, cause it really doesn’t have any core values on it’s own. Most of what it has was borrowed from butter, cream and the French. Now we have herbs too. The rest few things like different kinds of porridge and cabbage is together with ‘Smørrebrød’ relics of the past and among few things poor Danes could afford to eat centuries ago (it stands to say that ‘smørrebrød’ — the dark bread with toppings like hearing and pate— is considered very Danish, today quite reputable and normally only served for lunch in traditional Danish restaurant with little, if any, resemblance with the New Nordic Cuisine)

But can you invent a Danish non-existing cuisine in 10-15 years time? Or would it take longer? Probably. You certainly cannot invent the Italian. That has been a process that started millennia and centuries ago, based on the different people who reigned the Roman Empire, before, during and after it. Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Germanic tribes, Arabs, African Berbers, Spanish Muslims. The cuisine of Enotria —Enotria, the land of wine as ancient Italy was called— has evolved from a journey long thousands of years. Not of the last decade’s latest tendency. A tendency however in decline, the new hot thing is no longer New Nordic but insects.

The history of our different cultures is important to remember.

Appeal to people’s emotions and rationality.

So in order to draw back a little attention to some Italian trademark, can you downscale a given Premium Quality and increase it’s worth? Can you lower the prices of Brunello di Montalcino to upscale this brand’s recognition and call it premiumization?

It could sound like an opposite logic. But it isn’t. If Mohammed doesn’t want to come to the mountain the mountain must come to him. So that everyone can see how powerful he is. Our guests are mountains and we’re not powerful. But we aim to become to premiumise Italy. We’ve lowered the prices on all our premium quality Italian wine (not only Brunello) to (re)gain and recall consumer recognition. Risky business? Attention; we have not lowered the prices for a short period of time. That is a strategy we don’t believe in, it will harm your business in the long term. Instead we have re-positioned our brand and changed our restaurant from being just that to become a combined Restaurant-Enoteca. To give our guests an authentic Italian experience in symbiosis with extraordinary value for money. It has long been old news that few are satisfied with the price level required if you’re out to have a decent bottle of wine served with your meal dining in restaurants. This is very much the case in Copenhagen as well. We too were multiplying the cost price of our wines minimum 3 and more likely 4 and 5 times. Simply because it was necessary. Salaries in DK are high. So are taxes. Rent. Food. And wine too. Working hours are low. People are spoiled -which is mainly a good thing, but 37 hours a week is 37 hours a week to a Dane, and not more (that’s why we only hire Italians ;-)).

Choosing to cut the prices to allow our guests to have a premium quality wine experience at wine shop prices when dining at our restaurant ought to mean that we’d loose money, you might say. Because we now make less money per item. This was our biggest concern, when we did it. But on the other hand we hoped it’d bring us more people. Concern number 2, was hope enough to make it in time? Would the word spread fast enough? We took a calculated risk and were lucky that the word spread even faster than we could have hoped for.

People are not only passing it on but they also keep coming back, the percentage of returning visitors keeps climbing.

Our strategy has worked so far. Our ace is at the heart of premiumization; we appeal to people’s rationality and emotions. People adore quality, very fair prices and highly enjoy the obvious and true story about how and why such quality and such prices are possible. Rationally and emotionally. The next big question remains. How far will we be able to take this? Passing on the authentic Italian Torch by being and giving an easier access to the real, premium Italian stuff in an effort to combat the important brand damage Made in Italy suffers, the tremendous falsification of non-Italian made products and continue not only to survive but to thrive, (re-)flourish and premiumise?

50 Wine Professionals from around the Globe

I am extremely proud and very grateful to be among 50 Wine Professionals from around the Globe to have been accepted to join The Vinitaly International Academy’s 2017 educational initiative.

If I pass I will become nothing less than one of the next Certified Italian Wine Experts & Ambassadors of the World

Last year 27 out of 55 passed the exam.

Wish me luck

Wine Fraud or not – et spørgsmål om tillid, kundskab og bæredygtighed

Den verden hvor vinflasker sælges til flere hundrede tusinder af kroner og dollars, er en verden fjern for mange, hvor langt størstedelen af os – det druenydende folk – har svært ved at forstå at (eller om) det vitterlig kan være rigtigt. Ikke desto mindre er det ganske vidst; sørme ja, der er adskillige ‘almindelige’ flasker på bare 75 cl som sælges for kvarte og halve millioner, og de kan såmænd også koste meget mere end det. Om vinene så reelt er pengene værd, kan diskuteres fra nu og til evig tid, men man kan ikke løbe fra at værdien følgeligt er til stede i øjeblikket, når der er et købestærkt marked.

Som med alt andet hvor der er store penge i spil, finder man ofte også fup og bedrag. I kølvandet på Rudy Kurniawan skandalen, og nu den nyligt bedragerisigtede John Fox fra California’s Premier Cru (som har overgivet sig til FBI, han erkender sig skyldig i bedrageri for mere end 45 millioner dollars), er en ny tv-dramaserie på vej; “Connoisseur”. Star Trek skuespilleren John Cho skal ifølge Variety spille ‘the bad (charming) guy’ – ham som snyder verdens rigeste og mest magtfulde personer til at købe falsk vin for millioner.

Men ligeså boostende for verdens vinmarkeder og spændende for adrenalinen, som serien nok vil være – jeg glæder mig meget til at se den, ligeså ‘iderig’ og bekymrende vurderer jeg desværre også at den bliver.

Den kan nemlig hurtig gå hen og blive en manual for andre overkreative sjæle, som netop Fox og Kurniawan. Og dette sandsynligvis en del længere nede i vin-hiearkiet, hvad angår kvalitet/prestigevine. I det lys vil det på pågældende niveauer blive stadigt sværere for både forbrugere/vinkøbere og vinhandlere at samarbejde, tilliden bliver nemlig sat på en alvorlig prøve. Alt imens er det klart at ‘de rigeste og mest magtfulde’ for nuværende, har fået taget deres forholdsregler og i dag er langt mere på vagt end vanlig – og desuden langt mere ressource stærke, med rig mulighed for at købe sig til bedre indsigt i og vurdering af investering af vin. Almindelig snusfornuftig intuition er nok også noget der bliver arbejdet mere intensivt med end tidligere. Således vurderer jeg faktisk at salget af Fine Wines vil fortsætte forstærket, hvor de mest betroede, uplettede vinsælgere bliver endnu mere eftertragtede. Aldrig før, som nu, har der været så meget goodwill, prestige og værdi i at sælge og investere i vin. Dyr vin.

Samtlige af alle øvrige vinhandlere nedad i vinkæden, fra dem som sælger mellemgode dagligdagsvine til gode bourgogner, er til gengæld den gruppe af købmænd, jeg tror får det sværest. Den produktionsmæssige og økonomisk galoperende vinindustri og de millioner af vinentusiastiske individer på verdensplan vi i dag er vidne til, er nemlig forholdsvis ny. Vi skal ikke mange årtier tilbage før noget så nu anerkendt som Barolo slet ikke fandtes i vores bevidsthed. Der hersker en enorm uvidenhed omkring vin. Internt på vinmarkedet. Fra forbruger til vinhandler. Og sågar fra vinhandler til producent.
Vin er en videnskab. En videnskab der skal studeres og forstås. Som tager adskillige liv at tage ind. En videnskab der både kan forkortes, forlænges, udvides og indskrænkes. Så den passer til den enkeltes behov. Men ikke desto mindre en videnskab, hvis fundament er nødvendigt at forstå, for eksempelvis at kunne vige udenom de mange tusinder falske vinprodukter, som i dag er på markedet. Og det tifold af produkter, vi endnu ikke har set, som vil komme. Især i mellemkategorien, hvor publikummet er størst. Her er det vigtigere end nogensinde, personligt at klæde sig bedre på hvis man mener det, når man siger at man går op i vin.

For egen vindings skyld, er det afgørende når man investerer i vin. Og for søren, om det er vigtigt at man, som minimum, også får rystet basal vinkundskab ind i de mange ledere og direktører der lufter tanker og teorier om emnet ved de gentagne business dinners de afholder, og er med til. Tanker og teorier der så absolut er mere end velkomne – det er kun fantastisk at vin er så udmærket et samtaleemne. Men 9 ud af 10 har svært ved at smage forskel på Cabernet og Merlot, ved ikke hvordan diverse (faglige) termer som syre, mineralitet og sågar alkohol defineres, forklares og forstås. Det er selvfølgelig fordi de er rigtig dygtige til alt mulig andet og endnu aldrig har lært hvordan vinkundskaben skal gribes an.
Men det kan man let gøre noget ved, hvis man vil. Og derved i det lange løb, være med til at bekæmpe den falske vinhandel, øge integriteten og styrke den globale bæredygtighed indenfor vin.