Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for March, 2010

Quake costs Chile $300 million in wine damages

Colchagua Valley

Last week, I had the good fortune of speaking with Alfredo Bartholomaus, the Chilean wine ambassador for Winebow, an international wine distributor and importer.

Bartholomaus has been working with Chilean wineries since 1985, and was able to give me a report on the damage caused to the industry by the 8.8 earthquake that hit the country on Feb. 27.

He estimates that 10 to 12 percent of all inventory (stored wine), about $250 million, has been wiped out. Subsequent to my conversation with Bartholomaus, the U.K.’s Guardian published this article, putting the number closer to $300 million, not including loss of buildings, warehouses, and underground irrigation systems.

The majority of damage is centered in three wine regions in the south of Chile. According to the Guardian story, much of the damage happened when big stainless steel tanks toppled over, flooding bodegas with carmenere, cabernet sauvignon and merlot.

With harvest officially under way – Bartholomaus said whites are picked at the end of February, typically – vintners are going to have to rely on generators to keep drip irrigation systems working.

Without infrastructure, some wines will have to sit in tanks outside. Still, vintners with larger facilities in the northern Maipo Valley can send their wines there for production.

Bartholomaus witnessed the 8.0 Santiago earthquake back in 1985, and is confident the country will rebuild. But he did add: “I wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of the new president (Sebastian Pinera), who starts in a week.”

Posted on Monday, March 8th, 2010
Under: Corkheads | 1 Comment »
Leave a comment

Tiny Bottles and Brixr: Live wine tasting at its best

brixr sample of tiny bottles

I just had the privilege of participating in the beta test for a new online platform that’s bringing a live, interactive approach to wine tasting that I think is going to take consumers in a new and positive direction.

On Brixr, which is a Crushpad project, you taste wines from sample-sized, 1.7 ounce bottles called TinyBottles with other wine enthusiasts and experts before you commit to buying a whole bottle.

So, if the laundry list of berries, herbs, and other subjective descriptors in wine trade pubs confuses instead of helps you determine what to buy, this approach may suit your needs better.

The Tiny Bottles are “green,” convenient, and cost far less than a whole bottle of wine. There’s nothing I hate more than wasting wine when I’m doing a tasting. No more.

Our tasting included 100 of my fellow media professionals and was led by Rajat Parr, the wine director for Michael Mina’s restaurants. Parr tasted us through six Rhone-style wines that range in price from $20 to $50.

My favorite was a 2008 Arnot-Roberts Syrah($38)  from the Clary Ranch in Sonoma Coast. A little cold for Syrah, you say? Yes, the winery folks harvested in early November! That’s how long it took to get the grapes where they wanted them. Still, the alcohol is 11.5 percent. You heard me. 11.5! And it’s California Syrah. They only made three barrels of it and it’s absolutely gorgeous.

Crushpad created the samples using “proprietary rebottling technology” that is friendly to the juice. In other words, they are bottled with nitrogen and triple sparged, allowing virtually no oxygen ingress and resulting in a taste experience that is true the wine’s normal bottling. The small bottles are under screw cap, of course.

On the left of my screen during the tasting was a live video of Parr and Christie Dufault of RN74 tasting through the wines, spitting, discussing the regions that the wines hailed from – Paso Robles, Sonoma Coast, Crozes Hermitage, Cotes du Rhone, Gigondas – and all around enhancing our understanding and appreciation of the wines.

It’s basically good old fashioned live storytelling. I wouldn’t most of  those interesting details about the Arnot-Roberts had I read a tasting note.

To the right of my screen, a lively dialogue was brewing between my fellow tasters and I. We were all able to give our impressions of the wine while joking around a little too. It was fun.

Anyway, it’s a great concept, and with more wineries looking to increase their direct to consumer sales in this dire economy (they certainly can’t rely on restaurants and tasting room sales during a recession) it’s a win-win for everyone.

Posted on Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010
Under: Corkheads | No Comments »
Leave a comment