Don’t confuse the title with another entry about Round-Up. I haven’t seen more articles on that lately. But there will be more – it’s a problem and we haven’t heard the last of it. This is part of a regular category of entries I’m writing on what I see in wine news, and how it relates to previous posts I’ve written. Partly, it’s to share what I find interesting out there on the internets, and partly, it’s to promote old entries that didn’t get much traffic. There’s a strategy here, people.
The point that I have been making in a number of my recent blog posts is that wine-quality scores give the illusion of being mathematical without having any useful mathematical properties. This is not quite fraudulent, but it is unfortunate — the apparent precision of the numbers gives an illusion of accuracy.
Get it? They try to make like wine tasting and wine quality is quantifiable. But it isn’t. Inter-rater reliability doesn’t really exist, and I actually wonder whether the same taster, on a different day, after a different meal for lunch, would rate it the same? I mean there are those sommelier types who can sip a wine and tell you which side of which hill in France the wine was grown on in which year, as well as the type of oak it was barreled in. So maybe their taste buds are that sensitive and well-trained.
He goes on to speak of different possible systems that he has read and considered, and pros and cons of each. Personally, I think rating wine like Moody’s credit ratings is overly complex and not just slightly insane.
But this article, at the end of the day, simply reminds us that no system is really foolproof, and it really comes down to personal preference, and emphasizes that you should find someone who appreciates the same things in wine that you do, and check with them for what they like, and share wine. Sounds like a lovely way to proceed to me.
And by the way, it’s not that I don’t like these wines that win medals and score high, we absolutely adored the Eluvium yesterday, and that wound up in the governor’s case! But I still do worry what happens when we promote a few people’s palettes as the best and only recognize the wines they love, when there is so much great stuff out there.
Cabernet Franc keeps getting more and more attention! After I wrote this missive on Missing VA cab francs that should be represented in a va wine article, I started to see more about it online too. I’ve had a few tasty cab francs lately, and I’m dying to open the Early Mountain Madison County Cab Franc that came in my club package yesterday. It’s a 2017, so I may let it sit a while and age. I have six different va cab francs on hand right now, and I’m itching to do a comparison tasting even with them. I need to sedate the angry German Shepherd and get husband to let me have a few folks over so we can test it out.
Here’s another article that ignores great Virginia Cabernet Franc. It starts by pointing out that what was once viewed ONLY as a blending grape (shout out to Wine Friend 2!), has become quite chic now. Speaking of California Cab Franc, the author reports on thoughts from a wine industry person:
Cab franc, he says, is misunderstood and quirky, yet smooth and elegant. The medium-bodied wines are different from cabernet sauvignon: loaded with charm and finesse, soft bright raspberry-ish fruit, aromas of violets and mint, less tannin, and a silky texture that can remind you of pinot noir. While some top examples sell for three digits, the majority are modestly priced. Examples from outside the Loire are fruitier and sunnier, often with softer edges.
More cab franc is definitely in your future. Because the grape ripens a week or two earlier than cabernet sauvignon, it’s ideally suited to cool climates like New York’s Finger Lakes and other places in the U.S. such as Virginia and Michigan. Acreage in Argentina is growing, and the grape is planted in Hungary and Kazakhstan. At the same time, global warming has helped cabernet francs in the very cool Loire Valley develop more fruit and sensuality.
So there you go. At least he mentioned Virginia, but he also mentioned Canadian Cab Franc Ice Wine – I’m not ready for that. I mean, I’d try it but sweet cab franc grown in cold areas with short growing seasons? I’m imagining super-green vegetal sweet wine, and that doesn’t sound fun. Keep me with a nice smooth and silky one.
It’s interesting how much attention Petit Verdot is getting now too. The Early Mountain club shipment contained their Elevation blend which was petit verdot and merlot. Most people shy away from the heft and power of petit verdot, but I’ve written that because it grows so well here in Virginia and is adaptable to our crazy climate, we should embrace it. More and more Virginia wineries have petit verdot single varietals or as a heavy component in their blends.
And other wine regions are picking up on Petit Verdot too. In this article, which provides a little general information about PV as one of the Bordeaux grapes, the author also mentions other regions playing with the grape, and one region doing a PV/Malbec blend. That sounds stunning to me – the sharp tannins of the PV mixing with the pure joy that is malbec. Wow. We’ll have to check that out if we can find it, even if it isn’t Virginia wine. Google didn’t help me find it at Total Wine locally, darnit. Anyway, the article notes that even a little bit of PV comes through in the blend, and you can tell it’s there. I’ve been saying that for a while, and I’m excited to see where we go with blending it and refining and softening it for the future.
I haven’t been writing much about climate change in this blog, but I’m pretty passionate about it. It’s going to have a monster impact on the Virginia wine industry as we deal with greater rainfall, strange and unpredictable droughts, brutal hail-filled thunderstorms, and random early frosts. Not to mention the bugs that will show up, or the helpful vineyard bacteria and wildlife that pollinate, and the wildlife that will get hungrier and search for anything at all to eat, like the grapes waiting to be made into lovely wine for me.
This article on climate change and vineyards talks about natural and chemical approaches. I get that scientists and big agrobusiness will look at chemical/technical ways to manage this, but since those are the ways causing the catastrophe, it makes sense to look more to natural ways to retool our vineyards to keep good wine coming. The big natural strategy it mentions is choosing different grape varietals that are more adaptable to the climate.
Climate change scenarios vary greatly across different wine regions, in terms of levels of change and threat. The diversity of Vitis vinifera does at least allow plenty of flexibility. The top 10 grape varieties by planted vineyard area account for 71 percent of the total expanse. There are another 1000 or so wine grape varieties grown on some kind of commercial scale so, in basic terms, there is plenty of room to maneuver.
Jason at Arterra is doing exactly this, planting his petit verdot, tannat, and petite syrah because they seem able to regulate water intake during those ridiculously wet times so that the grapes aren’t overly plump and juicy and diluted. These types of practices will keep the good wine coming even in the worst of years (like 2018!).
Because 2018 was so tough on grape growers, many are planning on rose from the grapes they were able to harvest and save from mold and rot. This article cites Jim Law at Linden, who told me pretty much the same thing, the 2018 grapes are not at the quality level he wants, so he won’t make the red at all, and also Mark and Maggie Malick from Maggie Malick’s wine caves, who grow for so many Virginia wineries, but couldn’t pull off their full harvest.
We have another year or two to wait and see what comes of 2018. I already have my first bottle from the harvest, a rose from Early Mountain, in my club package. It will be really interesting to see what others release. Arterra had a great barrel tasting and those wines are developing nicely, so we shall see what it brings from others.
That’s your news roundup for now. Hopefully you enjoy reading about these updates and flipping back to a few old entries to refresh and remind you.