Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
 
July 3, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

What is a Negociant?

We'll include this in our section about wine jargon, but we've had quite a number of customers ask about how wine is actually being made in Napa Valley and elsewhere. Much to the chagrin of many winemakers, the idea of a Negociant is not only alive and well in California, but it is growing.

How's it going? This is Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. One of that's come up a few times over the last couple of days is the term "negociant." First -- yes, it's French and it means "merchant" in France. And in California and especially in Napa Valley, it might be the dirtiest word around. 

So, the theory on a negociant is, it's somebody who buys either grapes or even more accurately bulk juice; assembles it, usually with the help of a winemaker; and then releases it under their own label. 

Cameron Hughes, is a great example of somebody who produces some pretty darned good wine at a really fair price, using the tactic. It's something that we're starting to see more. And it's really one that starts to blur the line between what is a bulk wine, and what is a winery wine.

So, that's what a negociant is. There are a few big ones, and there's more on the way. Thanks again.

Mark Aselstine
 
March 5, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

The California Drought and It's Affect on The Wine Industry

Despite all the stories about inclement weather in the Midwest and on the East Coast of late, California is in the middle of perhaps it's worst drought over the past thirty years.  As a kid I remember rocks ending up in front of a number of houses on our street, as well as the huge wild fires that seemed to increasingly spring up every fall in the hills outside of Los Angeles and San Diego....unfortunately this drought is suppose to much worse than that.

The saving grace so many years ago was that the Sierra Foothills and the Bay Area still were receiivng rain and snowfall roughly equivalent to their normal amounts.  Now, depending on who you ask, snow packs in the Sierra's are 25-50% of their average and there are serious issues with both rian water run off (or the lack thereof) as well as ground water amounts.

I'm starting to see farmers and vintners take a more serious look at how this may affect the wine industry both during this growing season, but also if something like this drought were to continue to unfold over the next few years.

In Lake County, they're talking about improving effeciency and stopping as much water loss as possible.  Healdburg, in many ways the home to the Russian River Valley has imposed a mandatory 20% cut on residents while the state is talking about telling farmers in the region that they simply cannot take any surface water at all this year.

Of course, for our purposes here: what's the likely affect on the wine industry, especially those high end wineries in the Russian River and those up and coming names in Lake County?

In some ways, it's a bit early to tell.  Spring will need to be wet to help, but very little water is typically used in grape cultivation during winter months as it is.  A hot, hot summer and little water won't be a good omen for either area though.  The concern is that a lack of winter rainfall leads to early bud break which, if followed by a severe frost (without ground water to help prevent it) could decimate crops across the region.

Of course, like anything, a couple of good rain storms and we'll all forget any of this was even being talked about.

Mark Aselstine
 
October 10, 2013 | Mark Aselstine

Winemakers Personal Labels

We've realized that we've referred to winemakers personal labels a number of times in this space, without ever really talking about what we mean by that, which by the way is in no way a standard piece of industry jargon.

When we talk about a winemaker's personal label, we're usually talking about a winemaker who makes the wine at one vineyard (one that you probably have heard of) while making a smaller amount of wine, selling it himself (or herself) with little or no help.

Often the wine is made at the same facility where the winemaker works during the day and the fruit is generally purchased from vineyards that have larger than normal yields for the year (although more frequently vineyard owners are realizing that winemakers pay their bills and are offering longer term contracts to start ups).

In any case a winemaker personal label is often a nice way to get a really, really nice deal on a bottle of wine.

Mark Aselstine
 
September 29, 2013 | Mark Aselstine

What is a Vigeron?

Vigeron is a French term for someone who not only grows grapes, but then makes wine with them.  We think of estate wineries in those terms here in California, but the French term means something smaller, usually a winery and farming operation run by a single individual, or by a family who not only owns the land, but plans on keeping it for generations to come.

Mark Aselstine
 
September 23, 2013 | Mark Aselstine

What is an Estate Wine?

What is an Estate Wine?


While Alcohol-Beverage-Control and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacoo and Firearms have their own distinct rules for an estate wine, really there are two important notes.  First an estate wine must have 100% of the grapes grown on a winery owned vineyard.  That happens less often than you think, but perhaps more importantly the wine must then be made in its entirety in a continuous process, on its own site.  Estate wines therefore are an expensive proposition with some estimates in Napa Valley showing minimum investments of $30 million needed to create an estate wine program.