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Winebits 349: Wine ingredients, 60 Minutes, wine judging

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wine ingredientsEwwwwww: The Wine Curmudgeon has long advocated ingredient labeling for wine, despite intense opposition from the industry (including many of my friends, who tell me I’m crazy). Still, as the blog’s travel and resort correspondent recently emailed me: “I was offered a glass of wine from a box, from which I happened to read the fine print. It says ‘ascorbic acid added as a preservative’ and there is something added called Allura Red Dye #40 for ‘color stabilization.’ This must be a killer wine because it has other cool stuff, too: pectins, acetaldehyde, ethyl acetate, esthers, benzoic acid, and keytones. I remember keytones from college – they’re a sort of hallucinogen, not unlike mushrooms. The only thing that is a little concerning is a warning that says ‘added catechins and other phenols may combine with aluminum, barium and cadminium creating benzaldehyde – a known carcinogen.’ But let’s not worry about that. Man, I can’t wait to try this stuff.”

The French Paradox: One reason why I’m here to write this, and you’re here to read it, is because the “60 Minutes” television program ran a story in November 1991 about why the French — who smoked, drank copious amounts of wine, and ate red meat — lived relatively long, healthy lives. The program concluded that the reason was red wine, and the U.S. wine boom — which is still going on — began at almost that moment. The International Food & Wine Society website has a short piece discussing the “60 Minutes” episode, with a clip. Can it really have been 23 years ago? Have wine’s health benefits really done a 180 since then?

Keep it in context: Dan Berger adds welcome perspective to the debate about wine judging with this article. Unfortunately, given the size of many competitions, judging is about pace almost as much as quality. That  means, Berger writes, that “the faster the evaluation, the more often showy wines take the spotlight. As a result, subtlety rarely is rewarded in today’s wine-tasting world.”

Update: Nutrition labels and what the wine business doesn’t understand

Last month’s news that the federal government would allow nutrition labels on wine was mostly ignored by the wine business. Hardly anyone wrote about it, and the emails that I got said wine drinkers weren’t interested in nutrition labels and I would know this if I paid any attention to the real world.

Actually, the reverse is true. Wine drinkers are interested. The problem is that too many in the wine business don’t understand who their customers are or want they want. More, after the jump:

Winebits 285: Wine ingredients, Aussie wine, wine tasting

What in your wine? The wine industry, for the most part, has ignored the federal government’s decision to allow voluntary nutrition facts labels on its product. Eric Asimov at the New York Times, though not discussing the labels directly, writes about wine ingredients and offers the following: “…wine can very much be a manufactured product, processed to achieve a preconceived notion of how it should feel, smell and taste, and then rolled off the assembly line, year after year, as consistent and denatured as a potato chip or fast-food burger.” The nutrition labels are an opportunity for producers to connect to younger – and especially female – wine drinkers, and it looks like they’re going to pass it up for no good reason other than they think the idea is stupid.

No money down under: The news just keeps getting worse for the Australian wine business. Only one in four grape growers in the country’s best wine regions say their business is profitable, while a third of them want to stop growing grapes. And, to make matters worse, grape prices have dropped by half but only about 10 per cent of growers are being paid on time. The numbers come from an Australian government survey, and goes a long way to explain the ongoing crisis in the Aussie wine business.

How many wines was that? The best way to learn about wine is to taste wine, and Sean Sullivan at the Washington Wine Report knows that first hand. No wonder he won a Wine Blog Award. Sullivan recently tasted 600 Washington wines over the course of  several weeks – an impressive performance, even by the Wine Curmudgeon’s standards. The post is worth reading, even if you aren’t particularly interested in Washington wine, because it’s some of the best reporting I’ve seen from a wine writer in a long while. Sullivan eschews the usual sort of wine writing foolishness to give readers something they can use – hard facts, critical insight, and solid advice. In particular, his discussion of alcohol levels is very good.

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