By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 5:26 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

Climate change may be a hoax to certain politicians, but as we have been writing for several years, most wine producers are convinced that ripening times are occurring earlier and earlier every summer. The latest word came this week from Stuttgart where Dr. Monika Christmann told the German Wine Growers Association, of which she is President, that climate change will necessitate “more technological intervention.”

Attendees concerned about respecting tradition were reminded that tradition evolved from knowledge and practices that were best “at that time.” She said the “Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones” but because we learned better ways to get things done.

She could have been talking about Washington State where each of the past four growing seasons has been hotter than the one before it. One doesn’t associate drought and desert conditions with the Pacific Northwest, but eastern Washington has experienced drought throughout this time span. Growers there say heat is coming earlier and staying longer than ever before.

Not long ago Dr. Vaccha, director of the Barbaresco Co-operative, told me that harvests in the Piedmont are occurring two to three weeks earlier than normal these past few years.

Dr. Christmann told her conference that “tradition is good but “new technology can help to protect traditional style.” She noted that while annual warming may be controlled, there will be severe variations in temperature causing catastrophes like the floods in northern Germany and Austria and the super hail storms in Burgundy and the Loire last spring.

She acknowledged that warming trends have made it possible for quality red wines to be produced further north, so now I know why those Baden Spatburgunders have improved so much since my last trip to the Rhine Valley.

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By Maria McKinley   |   Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 10:58 am   |   Leave a Comment »

Kacey Mya’s blog at winerest.com points out some interesting trends she predicts will be forthcoming in 2017. Wine slushes were popular this past summer and Mya claims that will continue. A recipe of wine, fruit, and ice has infinite possibilities because the ingredient list is endless. Refreshing and cooling, it is the modern take on sangria and can easily be shared on social media by home bartenders. Sounds a little chilly, though, as we wait for winter weather.

According to Mya, wine sales from on-premise sites have been declining since 2015 and are expected to continue in 2017. An on-premise site refers to a bar or restaurant where an off-premise site is a non-retail location such as your home. The trend may be a result of flat or declining personal incomes and the high mark-up of wine in restaurants. It brings to light 1/2 price wine nights available at many restaurants and worth checking out at your favorite eatery.

Mya sees natural wines coming into favor in 2017. A natural wine is one that you let grow and develop on its own, much like original wild vines and simple fermentation as in ancient times. The resultant wine color may be murky, the taste may be acidic, may even have a little fizz. Hey, it’s “natural.” Don’t confuse natural wines with organic wines. In the U.S., an organic identifying label on a wine bottle should signify the grapes were organically grown but wine production cannot be organic, thus the wine itself is not organic, only the grapes.

In 2016, Millennials, (ages 19 to 35), drank more wine than Baby Boomers (ages 52 to 71), so claims Mya. As a result, this new generation of wine drinkers may have an effect on marketing. Mya says you should expect to see more wine bottles on the retail shelves that have catchy names and graphic logos. Edgy-looking to attract younger buyers. Millennials may not care so much about aged wines as do the Baby Boomers.

Very trendy now and into the new year will be red wine aged in bourbon barrels. One such brand is grown and produced in southern Spain. Labeled Southern Belle, it’s a red wine blend of Syrah and Monestrell, aged in Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrels. Robert Mondavi offers a Private Selection Cabernet Sauvignon aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels.

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By Allen Dale "Ole" Olson   |   Tuesday, November 29, 2016 at 6:16 pm   |   Leave a Comment »

I have written often about discovering the wines of Luc Pirlet while driving mostly lost in the Cathar country southwest of Carcassonne. Early on I was seeking Syrahs and Grenache-based wines and came across Malbecs. I was smitten with the wild country known as Corbieres covered with desert-like mesas and cut by steep, narrow canyons of dry river beds.

Carcassonne may be one of the most visited touristic cities on the Continent, but till recently the Aude vineyards starting a scant dozen miles away were largely overlooked by visitors to southwest France. This mountainous region in the Pyrenees foothills was in my early visits in the 1960s void of travelers’ amenities, and I was pleased to find refuge and succor  in small wine towns like Tuchan and Durban and especially in Douzens, a village of some 600 souls and some delicious wines. Today you can follow the Route of the Cathars to check on one spectacular medieval castle after another and/or follow a wine route from one appealing tasting room to another.

Luc Pirlet wines from this wild country have always been very much to my liking, but till last week I never knew he produced a Pinot Noir. Apparently, I had neglected my homework. But there it was in a Total Wine Pinot Noir bin at $11 the bottle. Pinot Noir has gained a serious foothold in the Languedoc during the past decade, but in the Aude? In Douzens? Near Carcassonne?

Absolutely. Within range of the Mediterranean mists of Perpignan and Narbonne, sheltered by the Pyrenees — think Sonoma and the Pacific and Sierra Nevadas — the Pinot gets the warm and cold temperatures it loves  and those special limestone soils so similar to those along the Saone in Burgundy.

Pirlet has pulled it off. A splendid value Pinot Noir true to its French heritage. Cathar Country has never been so good.

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