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Wine studies and reports


The Recipe for a Perfectly Wine-Infused Summer

What better way to celebrate the dog days of summer than curled up in your hammock or beach chair with a book you can’t put down, and a glass of something lip-smackingly delicious close at hand?

Summer reading is highly personal – some relish a good bit of mindless fluff while others use the time poolside to catch up on thought-provoking or hobby-enhancing reads.

Occasionally, oh-so-occasionally, a book will allow you to achieve multiple ends: you learn something while being thoroughly entertained. Characters (however real or fictional) come alive so much so they feel like part of your life. Dots connect in ways they hadn’t before, and more memorably, because the story itself is so tangible.

a page-turning summer read for fans of history, fans of wine, fans of villains and heroes alike. . .

In his book American Wine: A Coming of Age Story, Tom Acitelli delivers a page-turning summer read for fans of history, fans of wine, fans of villains and heroes alike that stretches like a perfect summer day into today's 20-teens. Acitelli’s captivating, appropriately detailed narrative transports you at once from Rouen, France where Julia Child was first introduced to the concept of wine at lunch (! - 1948), to a then fledgling mid-1970s New York City and its finger-crossing venture Windows on the World, to Miljenko "Mike" Grgich's post-WWII Croatia, back to College Park, Maryland and Robert Parker's first sniffs and tastes in the late 1960s, to the epic Judgement of Paris, Robert Mondavi’s pursuits -- and beyond!

situated in Boston in particular it can be quite easy to look further east to the Old World of wine, rather than west to the New. . .

Whether you are new to wine, 'simply' believe it one of the best party tricks for bringing people together, and/or are a long-time fan, certainly gaining a little perspective and new insight is always winning - no matter the genre. And, we admit, situated in Boston in particular it can be quite easy to look further east to the Old World of wine, rather than west to the New, to understand and perhaps appreciate wine even more.

Acitelli breaks this bubble, illuminating not "just" his title's thrust, but the global political, economic, technological and cultural influences, anecdotes and characters essential to understanding how far the American wine industry has come in such a short time – and how essential all of the players and factors worldwide have been to achieving such an end.

As we often say, like looking at a piece of art for the first time, whether you're inclined to like it, love it or hate it, fuller appreciation emerges when its story – its context – is revealed.

Here Acitelli paints a large, overdue, page-turning portrait of (American) wine that, in itself, is lip-smackingly good.



Screw it! Why You Can't Judge a Wine by Its Closure


When I (Rebecca) worked for a boutique wine shop I remember feeling self-conscious whenever I chose to work with an awesome wine packaged with a screwcap. I personally felt like a trader to the tradition of uncorking a bottle of wine even though the wine quality was in the bottle, as it were. And whether absurd or not, I wasn’t the only one; I knew it would be a tougher “sell”.

So I called it out, ahead of the inevitable question “won’t my friends think that’s a cheap wine?” and worked harder to convince people to take a leap of faith. I probably had a 60/40 success rate.

...I no longer even think about the type of closure a bottle has when I curate a flight of wine for an event.

In writing this piece, I realized I no longer even think about the type of closure a bottle has when I curate a flight of wine for an event. In fact, it’s not until we pull the wines out of their boxes during set-up that we (re)discover which are screwcaps, cork, synthetic, crown (yep! – the same as beer bottles) or glass stops.

Now when we spot at least one wine has a screwcap, we sigh in relief. We know the wine won’t be impacted with cork taint. And since we will only have to open that wine with a quick twist of the wrist, we’re better able to keep guests seamlessly engaged, not having to physically work a corkscrew while geeking out about the wine. Convenience and consistency are our best friends.

Instead of being a sign a wine is cheap, mainstream or basic, closures today are simply a sign of the times. Good ones!

New technologies, systems and processes are perpetually evolving to help us do things better. And we’re thankful the wine industry is no exception. Still, we hear you – the physicality of using a corkscrew definitely taps into our nostalgia for tradition. In the publishing world this could be related to hardcover, paperback or e-reader.

So let’s be fair and dig into WHEN the closure could impact your opinion and experience with a wine, rather than just an added bonus of convenience:

FIRST.  For the great wines out there that are intended to be or are better when consumed “young,” screwcaps simply aid and abet!

SECOND.  For those occasions when a wine will benefit from aging, screwcap closures could impact that success. But not necessarily…

Check it out:

  • Not all screwcaps are created equal. Winemakers have control over which style of screwcap closure they wish to use. Some wines that simply benefit from a little time in the bottle (for flavors to integrate, tannins to mellow and the like – kind of like your soup being better on day 2) may also benefit from a little teeny tiny breath of fresh air via the carefully crafted foil “seal” that exists (or doesn’t) under the lid.
  • There are high end winemakers in this category who have been bottling with screwcaps for a while now (aka at least a decade) with happy results.
  • And their innovation is being rewarded with a recent study that proves (the operative word!) wines can age well with a screwcap closure. These wines not only exhibit terciary nuances that only time can impart, they also deliver greater freshness (i.e. acidity remains intact).


Bottom Line?   Screwcap wine closures are like driving home from work every day withOUT traffic. It’s hard to argue with convenience and consistency, right? Besides, there are still plenty of other closures out there, for the days you don’t want to do the twist and shout!




(Friday) wine inquiries

Perhaps you also have been experiencing technical difficulties what with the storms we've been having around Beantown this month (feels more like July/August, no?). Nevertheless, we're going to try to get back on our game here at Pour Favor for some more regular wine fodder - internet outages be damned! This week we have some wine for thought the queue, so we'll keep things briefer on this end.

Check out this new company/wine tasting program out in California. The Tasting Room offers consumers a chance to sample uber premium wines before taking the plunge and buying a full 750ml bottle. Of course this service isn't on offer in Massachusetts what with our liquor laws, no doubt. But the idea raises a couple of interesting questions. Do you think you're more apt to buy a full bottle after sampling wines you have to pay for? Here in MA it is illegal for retail shops to charge for wine tastings so you still have the option to sample for FREE and then make a purchase. Is their program too contrived because there are only certain producers who participate?

And then there is the age-old (lol) question of what the heck the deal is with "Old Vines". Does it matter how old the vines are? And how old does the vine have to be to be old enough? Etc. Etc. Matt Kramer does a good job of starting the dialog on this tricky topic. Check it out! We might have to weigh in one of these days on our own....

What do you think constitutes "old vines"? Are you more apt to buy a bottle if it claims as much on the label?



Wine and the Environment - plus an event in Maine

With Earth Day just barely behind us, a flurry of writing in the wine world as it pertains to issues like global warming and the use of natural cork hit the web-waves. We've narrowed the reading field to just two articles since they are a bit lengthy (and you likely have to get some work done today, too!). But before we get into all that, check out this link to get more info about a wine and food festival fundraiser for the York Education Foundation up in Maine this Saturday, May 8th.

Ok, now it's time to settle in to the "meaty" stuff....

Here Slate presents a piece on global warming and the world and the world of wine. Something to bear in mind as you read it: there is NO replacement for a place's unique terroir. I'll say it again, European nations (and specifically their respective wine areas) in particular offer a distinct terroir that is unquestionably irreplicable.

Next, go here to take in this Wall Street Journal article on cork closures. It's a well written piece that captures BOTH sides of the cork debate. Which side do you land on? Are you pro-cork or pro-synthetic?



What's new(s) in wine and tasting it

I'm not sure I will ever fully understand why some known wines get a make-over largely in name only. A few years ago it was Moet doing away with their White Star Champagne bottling and replacing it with a slightly different iteration (in terms of the style of wine itself) and calling it Moet Imperial Brut. White Star was a really recognized name in the marketplace and today it is still a point of confusion for many looking for the White Star, and being handed the Imperial Brut. Is the wine different? Yes, a bit. But why not roll with the old name? Now it looks like La Mission Haut Brion is making a similar name shift. Check out this brief Decanter article on why the change.  Then tell us, as a consumer, does the reasoning make sense to you? Do you care? Next up we have an article that three different friends sent to me (from two different sources), to ensure I didn't miss it: the latest in wine health news reports suggests that women who drink have a better chance of avoiding obseity. Egad, will these studies ever cease? An entertaining read if you, like me, don't mind another guilt-free reason to keep pouring your nightly glass of wine.

Last but not least, we have a fun Old World vs. New World showdown on The Tasting Docit! On Friday March 19 you and other foodie nerds at WGBH can enjoy the fun for a mere $25. And there will be music to further enrich your tasting experience. Check it out!



Wine aeration gizmos - are these tools all they're cracked up to be?

Metrokane AeratorAerators seemed to be The Big Thing over the holidays. Whether considered the perfect gift or the best party trick going, I was entertained to find the original aerator, produced by Vinum, on hand at every holiday party I attended. I even received Metrokane’s Rabbit aerator as a gift! All of this enthusiasm got me thinking: is this little gadget worth all the fuss and, if so, which of these two products is superior? Pop on over to Wicked Local today to get my take!

Have you experimented with these new aeration tools, i.e. not decanters? Which one have you tried and did it win your favor?



Wine news for all to contemplate

Image care of: week there's a little something for everyone  by way of wine news, regardless of your specific interest in the science behind wine. Some way, somehow, these headlines are sure to hit close to home. Let's jump right in! I'm a visual, tactile person so I usually embrace every opportunity to better engage my senses to remember something. In the wine world, that usually means taking my time to engage ALL of my senses as I evaluate a wine. But can aromas be visualized? Do we need them to be?  For better or worse, the folks at Aromicon are taking this idea for a test drive. Check out this article at Springwise to get the scoop!

I couldn't find my related post about pests in the vineyards (sometime last year, I believe), but there's a shocking bit of news coming out of UC Davis regarding work to mitigate - or eliminate - the nematode problem perplexing California vineyard managers and winemakers. Apparently the Dept. of Nematology at Davis is being shut down, despite the fact that the problem has yet to be resolved. Wines & Vines didn't report on the politics or economics or whathave you happening behind the scenes there. But here's an update on the situation plaguing Northern California in particular. If you know a bit more on this, please weigh in below!

In other news, somehow I missed last year that Boisset decided to ship Beaujolais Nouveau in plastic bottles - to reduce costs of shipping the historic, annual November wine. (I wonder why they chose plastic over bag-in-box...). And, it seems this year Japan is taking things one step further by selling the wine as such - without re-bottling it in glass first. Did you see or hear any further news on this plastic-ization of BN last year - or more recently?



Intriguing wine news... and a cool wine exploration event!

Not my favorite flavorWow! This has been one heck of a week in wine news. The juiciest news comes by way of Wine & Spirits Daily regarding Amazon giving up their piece of the wine pie. It's a longer read but I think it's worth checking out! Ever experienced a tin-foilesque aftertaste having paired red wine with fish? There is new information this week about why red wine and fish are not such a great pairing. Read more here.

Then, in case you missed this year's Boston Globe Plonkapalooza, check out this year's top wine picks!

For those of you looking to stretch your legs and travel the wine world a bit, consider joining Bon Vivant Wine Company (Randolph, MA) as they wine and dine with you at some of Long Island's best vineyards on November 21. Tickets are available here.

What do you think of Amazon's decision?



The art and science of great Champagne

bubblesOne of the simplest pleasures in life is bubbles. Thank goodness they are all around us, from soap, to a delicate “Top Chef” food foam, to the beach! Remember being a kid and blowing them? You couldn’t help but smile every time you created one, and the bigger, the better. Then there was going to the beach, wading through the foam a crashed wave leaves behind and attempting to capture the remnants in your cupped hands. I still relish the smell of the ocean, transmitted as the waves crash and the mist gets picked up and sent to my nose.... But are these attributes beneficial for the enjoyment of sparkling wine, also?

Head on over to Wicked Local today to find out!

What do you love about Champagne?



Friday Wine Fodder

Thanks to fellow wine writer, Natalie Maclean, for this great Fall Wine Festival shot found on Epicurious! suspect with the wine trade's "tasting season" well underway, the Powers That Be at various publications (whether print or more socially-driven), are a bit behind in their usual operations. I know I'm a bit tuckered out, sampling wares from all over the world to suss out the Best of the Best for consumers.  My suspicion stems from a surprising lack of wine news this week. That said, I think I've found a few articles to distract you from your own work today. France is proving a bit fickle in their health/wine reports these days. Check out this Decanter article to learn which way they are flipping (or flopping?) this week.

And South Africa proves a tempting ground - for theft! Did you hear about this major wine heist?

Finally, don't forget to get on the tasting bandwagon yourself in the next week or so! Remember there are a couple of events you should consider attending:

Sept 25-27

Newport Mansions Food & Wine Festival Here’s what they’re saying about it: “Presented by Food & Wine, this spectacular event will feature more than 400 wines from around the world and cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs Jacques Pépin, Joanne Weir, David Burke and more culinary experts.” Click here for more info and to get your tickets today (and be sure to poke around the web for discount codes…).

Sept 29

All New England 3rd Annual Farm-Fresh Funky Feeding Frenzy @ Craigie on Main. From their lips to our ears, here’s what to expect:  “a 5-course dinner with wine pairings. We have thrown down a challenge to ourselves and pledge to meet it: every single offering on the menu will have been grown, raised or caught within our New England borders.”

Have you sipped and sampled at all this fall? Where abouts?