. Vite Vinifera De Vino's Blog: March 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009

Wine in grocery stores?

... Well, why not? I actually never understood why there are so many (seemingly) idiotic rules regarding alcohol in this country. After the Prohibition Act was repealed, each state retained the right to regulate for itself most matters pertaining to alcohol. The irony is that today the country that invented the free trade market and promoted the World Trade Organization does not have free trading within its own borders. Here's a great example: if I ship a bottle of wine to Massachusetts I can be incarcerated for a class A felony.

What needs to change in order to have a fair competition between small stores and supermarkets? The first couple of issues I can see are the multiple locations - in NYS you are not allowed to participate in any way under more than one retail license. Does that apply to the new license for the grocery stores, or they will have the same rules they have now to sell beer? In that case, they will be allowed to have multiple licenses and if the current laws do not change, the retail stores certainly will not do it of their own accord. Second - are the retailers allowed to sell products other than alcohol and accessories? Current laws prohibit this, creating another huge disparity between the retail and liquor licenses. And finally, the hours of operation have to be reconsidered; stores are currently allowed to sell alcohol from 9 am to 12 pm Monday thru Saturday, and 12 Pm to 9 Pm on Sundays; grocery stores can sell beer until 3 am every day.

So far there are no answers on how these issues will be handled. Obviously the supermarket lobbies are pushing to leave the things as they are, so they'll have an overwhelming advantage, and of course, retailers associations are raising numerous questions that have thus far gone unanswered.

Personally I'm not scared of those changes. I'm actually in favor of free trading, where it's really free, and no one is ostracized because of economic reasons. I would like to have clearer (and fewer) rules, so that we all play under the same commandments. I doubt that will happen any time soon, considering the revenues that are connected to this trade. Some states act like private businesses, operating in total absence of competition, resulting in higher prices and lack of choices for the final consumer, and big revenues in the order of billions of dollars every year for the state. So now I'm curious to see what new changes will occur, knowing that there is a reason why stores like mine exist - I hope the powers that be will keep that in mind when it's time to decide what game to play.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti!!!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


That is the main job of a "vignerole"; making choices!
A while ago during a conversation with Roberto Cipresso, the subject of choices came up. That's when he told me that he wasn't so good technically speaking but he is good in making the right decisions. He also talked about intuition and sensibility.
Those 2 words are actually closely related to each other, without sensibility you can't hear your intuitive side. Roberto's sensibility allows him to "feel" the ripeness of the grape, "feel" the weather and then pick then right day to begin the harvest. One more piece to the puzzle is that, with some exceptions, there is no right or wrong decisions made during the wine-making process, the result is a difference in the wine. The different styles, philosophies and beliefs in making wine are neither right or wrong but they are just different paths to achieve different results. Let's take as an example a modern producer versus a traditional one with similar quality standards; both makers make very different decision. The traditionalist will try to express the terroir; where the modernist will try to enhance the bouquet and the structure and correcting the genetic faults of the grape itself. In the case of Sangiovese a modernist will produce wines that are approachable while young with silkier texture and a round palate. Whereas, the traditionalist's wine will result in a more tannic, closed and austere version. Now personally, I tend to like more challenging wines so I'm more of an old world guy. But, that does not mean that the modernist have it all wrong. Actually, they just have a different vision of what wine should be; I obviously am not talking about adulterated wines, that in my opinion, are at the same level as the worst processed food. These kind of wines follow a different path and the objective is to create a flavor based on marketing studies and chemical formulas. There is a certain path that wine drinkers walk throughout their life. Most begin with sweeter, fruit forward and jammy wines and progress to seaking out tannins, acid and dry ones. Similar to what happens with food as a kid; starting with sweets and candy and moving toward craving salt. In wine-making this path is filled with crossroads; that require many choices. When Roberto was talking about his intuition he meant that that skill helps him to make a choice from a different prospective. It's a hard concept to explain, but, with experience and much repitition, it is possible to reach a deeper level of understanding about the grapes and the process. Meaning that you'll decipher more information that helps in making those challenging decisions. When I walk the vineyards with any winemaker, the ritual of touching, looking and tasting, by eating some grains was common. Now, although I could get a sense of the maturation from eating the grapes, they were able to get information about past, present and possibly future problems they have, had or will have. All this information will help to then make decisions; like when to pick, how long should the wine be left to macerate with the skins, should the the temperature be controlled during the fermentation, were it should be aged; stainless steel vats or wood barrel, what size and for how long...

Is an intense job especially during the harvest time being that the wrong decision during that particular period could end up in the loss of a valuable section if not the entire crop. A typical example is when you are a few days away from a perfect balance, with an even maturation of the different components of the grape. Then rain is predicted within a day or two, now if you wait and it does not rain you win, losing will have disastrous effect on the grapes. Do you want an example on how disastrous the wrong weather at the wrong time could be? Think of 1996 in Tuscany, one of the worst years; now up to mid August 1996 was considered a perfect year, balanced with the right amount of sun and rain up until mid August then the weather turned and started to rain for weeks lowering significally the quality of the crop. Hopefully this helped you understand what is behind a bottle of wine, and also to demostrate how complex of a matter wine making is and where the grape is just one of the many factor that have to come together to produce the God's nectar. So complex that it's impossible to identify the best wine or the favorite ones. Like a winemaker you should have options more then a set favorite.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti!!!

Monday, March 02, 2009

3 Bicchieri In Los Angeles Breaking News

It looks like this year in the Los Angeles Gambero Rosso kermesse the 3 Bicchieri are going to be sadly empty due to a snow storm that held the wines somewhere in the USA...anonymous sources stated that the wine will eventually show up by 4:30 Pm Pacific Time...more breaking news and maybe some picture from the West Coast to follow...

... the wines finally arrived at 7 Pm only problem they were in very bad shape being that after a trip a wine should rest for few days...What a disaster!!!