Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
October 31, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

St. Emilion in Financial Trouble?

Saint-Emilion Photos
This photo of Saint-Emilion is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Perhaps no town in the world exemplifies the nostalgia and romance which so many people associate with the wine industry. Unfortunately, the town of St. Emilion also is now showing that economies based strictly on incredibly expensive wine have been hit hard by the down economy.

From Wine Spectator: Bordeaux's St.-Emilion is struggling under debt and has sold a beloved landmark, the 14th-century Cordeliers convent, including the crumbling cloister and leafy park, to its renter, sparkling-wine producer Les Cordeliers, for a mere 750,000 euros (just over $1 million). The outcry has been tremendous….”

Personally speaking, I’m sad to see the convent go. It’s those type of historical ties which gives much of Bordeaux its charm and allows the region to market terrior which they say takes into account everything from sunlight and soil conditions, but even the culture of the winemakers and the vineyard owners. I have to think there was a better use of such an important and historical site, especially in a region which is blessed with millions of tourists each and every year.

Time Posted: Oct 31, 2011 at 8:31 AM
Mark Aselstine
October 28, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Sbragia Sells a Stake

Given that we've previously featured a Sbragia Family Vineyards Zinfandel, I thought it was interesting when I saw that the winery had been sold....as it turns initial reports which said the winery was sold were incorrect, the winery simply sold a portion of its business to Bacchus Capital Management, a San Francisco based private equity firm.

I don't want to bore everyone here with too many details of the wine business, but doesn't this simply make a ton of sense on all levels?  The Sbragia Family gets rich (or at least gets to dramatically expand their winery which would have taken decades of profits) all while likely keeping control of the winery which bears their name.  Bacchus is able to buy a portion of an asset which is likely undervalued due to the downturn in the wider economy and the pressure that has put on wine prices.  To me, it seems like a win-win.

I will make a short note that in my opinion, Bacchus is doing an outstanding job at selecting wineries in which to invest.  They aren't targeting up and coming wineries, but instead those truly primed to become household names.  I think both Sbragia and Qupe fall into that category, especially because the quality of wines produced has never been at issue.

Time Posted: Oct 28, 2011 at 3:15 PM
Mark Aselstine
October 27, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

The Great Cork Debate

Outside of the old world versus new world wine discussion, perhaps nothing is as divisive within the industry as the choice between natural cork, synthetic cork as I’ll call it and of course screw caps. Of course most studies show that consumers for the most part could care less as long as the wine is still good and that it aged as they expected.

Natural cork has had a sort of renaissance, in my humble opinion, because of a series of outstanding marketing messages, namely among them that natural cork is more environmentally friendly. While synthetic cork has largely talked about the percentage of wine which spoils with natural cork, it’s hard to sell a negative over the long term.

What closure do I prefer? I do think there is some real value for restaurants and bars in screw caps which can save a busy bartender or waitress at least 45 seconds per opening, but anything not being sold as a by the glass wine I think natural cork is a clear choice. I think the wine industry benefits from the romance of cork and the process of opening a bottle, especially since you never know exactly what you’re going to find. I think consumers are happy to come across the small, small percentage of cork’d bottles in order to have an outstanding experience with their wine.

Read more at PR Newswire.

Mark Aselstine
October 21, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

The Best Gift Baskets Online Nomination

The Best Gift Baskets OnlineIt’s always nice to have people say nice things about you. I think that’s true both personally and professionally, but when you own a business having people say nice things about your business is just as important to many of us small business owners.

Since starting the gift basket side to our business, we’ve received a lot of positive feedback from suppliers, customers and potential customers-but we’re starting to receive some recognition from outside sources as well.

We were recently nominated for the Best Gift Baskets Online at the Gift Rocket Blog.

Personally speaking I can appreciate what they’re trying to do and their technology which makes any online merchant available for gift card purchases. Having been featured in well known publications like Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Forbes, Wired (to be as clear as possible, yes there is an ownership connection between Wired and TCHO our chocolate supplier) Mashable and TechCrunch……this isn’t any old online gift basket competition.

If you get a chance please head over to the wine category and give us a vote. You’ll notice we’re competing against some of the largest online merchants, many of whom have been open for decades already.

We know our gift basket product lines are the absolute best on the market-it’s nice to begin receiving some outside feedback which agrees with that assessment.

Time Posted: Oct 21, 2011 at 3:24 PM
Mark Aselstine
October 19, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Wine Blog Wednesday-Bigger Than Your Head

Where can you find language, literature and a generally interesting take on both the world of wine and life in general?

Our Wine Blog Wednesday feature this week is: Bigger Than Your Head.

Written by Fredric Koeppel who previously worked as both an English professor and a professional wine writer (yes, those still do exist offline) I read his blog because he covers a wide, wide range of the wine industry.

In the past few days we’ve seen posts on the complexity that is Bordeaux as well as Zaca Mesa which has long struggled to gain the critical acclaim and consumer acceptance that it deserves in Santa Barbara.

Of course, we’re also partial to those bloggers who have nice things to say about wines we’ve included in one of our wine clubs, see the Quivera Zinfandel entry.

While I enjoy the wine writing specifically and believe the wine of the week is a nice feature for regular readers, the articles I enjoy most on the blog are those which touch a wider range of possibilities. Koeppel brings up some interesting discussion points when he asks if American wine can be sold based on a place in the same way French wine is traditionally sold. His argument about some AVA’s being simply too big to impart any information about the wine in the bottle is certainly valid and a discussion we had with a vineyard owner during our last trip to Sonoma, which found us in a vineyard which sits in the confluence of the Sonoma Coast AVA, Carneros and Sonoma Valley. Of course the Sonoma Coast AVA is so incredibly large to negate any value from the name.

Personally, I think that vineyard owners, winemakers and marketers have already started to realize these problems and many of the AVA’s being brought online now are much smaller in scope, as an example the Ballard Canyon AVA of Santa Barbara. The problem then becomes, how do you market yourself as one of hundreds of California AVA’s when everyone in the world already knows Napa Valley, Sonoma and to a lesser extent the Russian River Valley?

In any case, Koeppel’s blog provides an interesting take on the world wide wine industry and he does a nice job at mixing reviews for every day wine with that which is more expensive.

Time Posted: Oct 19, 2011 at 10:20 AM