Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
September 13, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Chinese Wine on the Upswing

Image Courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald

There has been a lot written about the Chinese wine market of late. Some vintners and winery owners (those at the low end of the price per bottle spectrum mostly) believe it is the answer to all their ills. Of course, when the market in a mid sized city can consume 36,000 bottle per month, or more you can see the argument in their favor.

I have wondered for some time how long it would be until the Chinese started producing their own wine at a solid enough price to quality ratio to start curbing the demand for imports. While I can’t see Bordeaux ever taking a back seat in the country and wines from California as an example are still largely unknown. The real problem which comes from a domestic wine program in China isn’t for the more expensive wine coming into the country, but what happens for Chile, Argentina and others existing in the value segment is far less certain. At this point we know the average Chinese wine drinker likes high end imports, but they’ve never had the chance to drink domestically produced, good, affordable wine before. How will they react to having local wineries and wine? In most regions of the world, the increase of local wineries also leads to increased wine consumption in general and oddly, increased imports. Simply put, it is a sign of a healthy wine market.

A story over at the Sydney Morning Herald might be the beginnings of changes in the Chinese wine market. In a highly respected Decanter wine competition (blind tasting mind you) a Chinese winery won for the best Bordeaux style blend in the $15 price point.

Long term, I don’t think there is any question that increased consumption and demand for higher quality wine in China is a good thing for American wineries, especially those in California which hope to eventually benefit from a positive attitude toward the Golden State as well as easy shipping access from both Oakland and Long Beach.

Mark Aselstine
September 12, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Harvest Coming at Bien Nacido

Having shipped a Bien Nacido Vineyard Y Block wine from Qupe a month or two back in our Wine Exploration Wine Club, we were happy to see a picture of the vineyard show up on the LA Times Blog last week.

Bien Nacido VineyardThe picture does a good job showing why the vineyard is so prized: although it sits in a sun drenched portion of Santa Barbara County, the fog is heavy especially at night. That gives grapes grown in Bien Nacido, the best of both worlds: warm days to achieve ripeness and cool nights to keep acidity levels high.

It’s also a good reminder that the fine wine growers in the state are getting ready to harvest their red wine grapes in the coming weeks. For the industry as a whole, it is both a time of much work and of course, hope for the future and what this vintage will bring in the bottle. Reports have been largely positive about growing conditions, perhaps the most positive throughout the state since the ’08 harvest, while a cool spring will likely keep yields especially low.

Mark Aselstine
September 1, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Wine Blog Wednesday: The Wineing Woman

Well maybe a day late this week, but at least we brought back the Wine Blog Wednesday feature, right?

This week we feature a blog which we only found ourselves a few days ago. The Wineing Woman is written by Amanda Maynard and personally I find the blog intereting for a few reasons.

To start, it seems she is having a conversation with herself on the blog which is a writing style which I greatly enjoy. Secondly, part of her recent conversations have centered around the future of her blog and how it has begun to change over time. Having gone through some of the same questions on my own personal blog, I can appreciate the sentiment and for our readers/customers I think she offers an interesting viewpoint as someone working in wine and reflecting on her time in the wine trade.

Amanda works as a wine ambassador for the Finger Lakes wine regions. While New York state wines are far from a focus for us, they certainly have gained some media exposure of late and I suspect their location so close (relatively speaking) to New York City will continue to lead them into the forefront of wine in the United States. I highly doubt they ever catch California, Oregon or Washington in critical acclaim while I’m working in the industry, but New York State is probably the best bet among other states to gain entry into the wine elite. Finding the perfect growing conditions and grapes is still a process, but they have a built in consumer base with discretionary income and generally love their state as much as anyone outside of Texans.

In any case, if you’re ready for a rather unique look into the life of a mid 20’s woman just beginning her wine career, while working through life as it stands at that age The Wineing Woman is an interesting, quick read which deserves to be noticed as an example of how one can work in the industry without become pretentious about the whole thing.

Time Posted: Sep 1, 2011 at 7:25 AM
Mark Aselstine
August 27, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Wines from New Zealand

I enjoyed a glass of Boulder Banks Pinot Noir from a previous Wine Exploration Wine Club shipment last night and it made me think about New Zealand wine and the immense differences in both winemaking styles and end results from those in California.

Since starting Uncorked Ventures wines from New Zealand have been of interest and with our recent change of the Wine Exploration Wine Club from an international focus to solely California, Oregon and Washington…..there was nothing left to do with a single bottle than to open it.

So what’s the deal with wine from New Zealand? To start, the Pinot Noir and white wine’s grown on the islands are typically much more acidic than almost anywhere else in the world (Germany being a possible exception with their Riesling). This higher acidity is both a winemaking choice as well as a product of the cool, even cold breezes coming in off the Pacific Ocean. In fact, many of New Zealand’s top vineyards sit closer to the ocean than they do anywhere else in the world. This proximity creates a dramatic change in the wine. Secondly, winemakers in New Zealand took a cue from their dairy industry close to 40 years ago and used stainless steel containers to ferment their wine. These days, that’s standard practice world wide, but 40+ years ago everyone assumed the alcohol in the wine would kill anything which we didn’t want there. Personally, if there isn’t a change in the wine quality, I’ll take clean surfaces, thanks.

There are certainly a few famous wineries from New Zealand which are widely available in the States. Kim Crawford is a name which jumps immediately to mind. Many of the Kim Crawford wines offer a nice introduction to New Zealand’s winemaking style, at prices which are incredibly reasonable given the quality of wine. Many bottles imported are scored at around 90 points by major wine critics while being priced at around $20

Mark Aselstine
August 25, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

9/11 Wine

I’ve mentioned before in this space that there are over 5,000 commercially active wineries in the United States, while that represents a lot of choice for both consumers and independent wine clubs, it can be a challenge for a winery to make a name for itself without high scoring bottles of wine.

Many local wineries I’ve spoken with, especially those in Southern California yearn for a national profile with which to market themselves, which would help in both direct to consumer sales as well as gaining contracts with one of the four remaining national wine distributors. They all lament the fact that it simply isn’t easy.

I never thought I’d be mentioning the tragic events of 9/11 on a wine blog, but when a winery bottles a wine and labels it a 9/11 wine I wonder, is this more about raising money for the National Memorial and Museum, or is this simply about selling more wine while gaining a foothold in the national media for your brand?

No one outside the winery knows for sure what their most important goal was (charitable or financial) and while it isn’t a project I’d want to be associated with, I can and do respect any attempt to help raise money for a memorial which has been entirely too long in the making. As the winery’s general manager said, “people have different ways of giving back” which is certainly true, but in this case when so much has transpired and wounds will continue to be fresh for years to come because of the enormity of the loss, I hope the winery itself will exercise caution when marketing the product.