Winebits 290: Barrels, wine parties, yeast
• Fewer wineries using oak: Yes, believe it or not – the amount of wine aged in oak has declined by one-third, reports The Drinks Business trade magazine. The story quotes a French barrel maker lamenting the change, though my guess is that there are as many consumers who are as happy about it as he isn’t. The short story doesn’t go into two other possible reasons for the drop: the incredible cost of barrels, which run $300 to $900 each and can cost as much as $4,000, and the improvement in oak alternatives, like chips, staves, and dominoes. They give an oak-like result to the wine at a fraction of the cost and time involved.
• Just like cosmetics: Can wine be sold through home parties, like Mary Kay or Avon? Or Tupperware, for those of us of a certain age? A variety of companies have tried this over the years, but the concept never really took off. Blame the three-tier system and its restrictions as well as financially insecure operators. The concept is making a comeback, though, reports the Wines & Vines trade magazine, under the auspices of winemaker Boisset Family Estates. The producer is selling selected wines through a new shop at home program, where “ambassadors” conduct the tasting, talk about the wines, and help guests order through a Boisset website. This helps them circumvent retail licensing laws, which hampered previous efforts.
• Bring on the high alcohol: Because, if a group of researchers have their way, winemakers will be able to use more efficient, artificial yeast to make wine in the next couple of years. Said one scientist: “Now we have the opportunity to adapt yeasts further, turning them into predictable and robust hosts for manufacturing the complex products we need for modern living.” This is a terrifying thought, given what winemakers can do with technologically-improved natural yeasts. The researchers, apparently, have never had a 15 percent chardonnay.