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Guillaume d’Angerville has made sophisticated and elegant wines at his family domaine in Volnay since he took over in 2003. But recently, the story goes, his curiosity was piqued in the wines of the Jura: a Parisian sommelier poured him a chardonnay from the region blind and d’Angerville took it to be a white Burgundy. And we all know that happens with a successful and ambitious vintner who has his curiosity piqued: before long, d’Angerville had purchased two estates in the Jura.
He placed them under the name Domaine du Pélican complete with a pelican on the label. You might think that because the Jura is the ultimate wine for hipsters that, in deference to Portlandia, he had to “put a bird on it.” But apparently it is a reference to the coat of arms of Arbois, where the wines are made. Burgundy…Jura…is this a match made in sommelier heaven or what?
D’Angerville settled on the two properties after an extensive search. Even though Arbois is only an hour from Volnay, it gets twice the rainfall. Also, some of the plots can be quite windy, given the rolling countryside. Throw in his high standard for excellence and it’s no surprise that it took d’Angerville a few years to find the right spots. Wink Lorch has a detailed backgrounder (pdf) about the new domaine and writes that they are looking for yet another vineyard parcel in the area. They are also experimenting with the local “sous-voile” style of winemaking, wherein white wines mature under a natural yeast blanket giving them an oxidative quality.
The current wines are made in a Burgundian style, which is to say that the white barrels are topped up and not oxidative. The 2012 Chardonnay has a vibrancy and elegance with layers–strata?–of minerals and a lingering finish. The 2012 Savagnin Ouillé is richer, with a faint nutty character, and big dose of minerals (can’t vouch for vitamins). The red 2012 Trois Cépages is a blend of Pinot Noir, Trousseau, and Poulsard (60-35-5) that has the terrific acidity you would expect as well as lively, prickly tannins that give it good structure.
These exciting wines are hard to find but worth seeking out. (Find these wines at retail)
Yesterday, the approval of a powdered alcohol called “Palcohol” got a lot of media attention. You could add it to food. You could smuggle it into stadiums. You could snort it.
However, the story got a little ahead of itself.
An attorney at bevlaw posted the original item noting that the TTB, a division of the Treasury that approves all things alcohol at the federal level, had approved seven labels for Palcohol. The labels included “Powderita” and “Cosmopolitan” with the words “Just add water for an instant cocktail.”
When I checked the TTB site for label approvals yesterday afternoon, the labels were all listed as approved as of April 8 (good thing it wasn’t April 1 since it reads like an April Fool’s prank) yet were currently “surrendered.” I wrote Mark Phillips the developer of Palcohol and he told me via email that the “seven labels have been surrendered due to an issue with the fill level.” He added that he did receive a separate approval for the “formula” so, he says, “powdered alcohol is still approved…We’re still moving forward and will submit new labels.” The alcohol powder is derived from vodka and rum.
Mark Phillips is the author of “Swallow This: A Progressive Approach to Wine.” His web site claims that his television show “Enjoying Wine with Mark Phillips” is “one of the most-watched wine shows ever.” Episodes include microwaving and freezing wines.
Tom Hogue, a spokesman for the TTB, responded to a query from the Associated Press that the Palcohol labels were approved in error. Palcohol’s web site posts that gave up the labels through a “mutual agreement.”
It is unclear what led the Palcohol applicant to surrender the labels nor what made the TTB do a 180. But one thing is for sure: powdered alcohol donuts are still a ways off.
Atlanta Wine Collector Accuses London Merchant of Selling Fakes; Sues for $25 Million (Wine Spectator)
Gregg Popovich joked his pre-game press conference yesterday that the early start had put a dent in his wine consumption the night before.
You probably know that Popovich is one of the winningest coaches in NBA history who fosters team play that is unparalleled in today’s NBA. But you may not know that he went to the Air Force Academy and was stationed in California where he got into wine. He has a 3,000-bottle cellar and is a partner in A to Z Wineworks and Rex Hill in Oregon.
The Spurs won their early start yesterday. Given that they had the best record in the deep Western Conference, Popovich may well be the coach popping bottles after the Finals are over (they don’t call him “Pop” for nothing). Unless Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls can take it all!
Wine Spectator Auction Index Records Biggest Gain in Three Years in First Quarter of 2014 (Wine Spectator)
LVMH, the luxury goods company whose portfolio ranges from Louis Vuitton handbags to Dom Pérignon champagne, has made their first acquisition in Burgundy. The group has purchased Domaine des Lambrays just outside of Morey-Saint-Denis with its 21.9 acres of vineyards, including the Clos des Lambrays grand cru as well as several premier cru sites. Although the Clos des Lambrays has produced wine since the 14th century, the sellers were the Freund family who have owned it since 1996. The price was not disclosed. Production is about 35,000 bottles with an average retail price of $165 according to LVMH. Thierry Brouin, the estate’s chief winemaker who has overseen the last 35 vintages, will stay with LVMH.
Even though the holding is relatively small for the publicly-traded LVMH–a bauble for owner Bernard Arnault–it does signal a possible shift to corporate ownership. Part of Burgundy’s appeal to wine enthusiasts is that, in contrast to an area of corporate ownership such as the Médoc, the owners actually live on the ground and make the wines. Whether this is the thin edge of the wedge of corporate ownership remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure: LVMH is not a discounter, so don’t expect any price declines.
More: “LVMH acquiert le grand cru de Bourgogne Clos des Lambrays” [lesechos.fr]
Photo credit: Arnaud 25 / Creative Commons
In my wine classes, people often ask me, “What’s the best wine app?” I’ve been using wine apps since the early days of the app store and have generally found that they try to do too much (“a million logically possible food-wine pairings”) or too little (only offer limited price comparisons). But now when I am asked, I have an answer: Delectable.
The main feature that makes Delectable the standout wine app is its incredible optical recognition. Out to dinner and enjoying a wine? You could simply snap a picture to remember, always a good a idea. But if you take that picture with the Delectable app, it will upload it to their servers, have all their minions pore over it, and then actually fill in all the relevant data. I tried beat the app with a few dimly-lit, hard-to-read labels or obscure micro-production wines and it nailed them all. (Some users have reported that it does have trouble Hellenic wines–apparently, it’s all Greek to them.) The only downside was that it could take a while to recognize the label–ten minutes in one case–but, as I say, I couldn’t stump it. The relevant information about the wine is loaded and the user can rate the wine on a sliding scale ranging from frowny face to smiley face. Using it over a longer period of time not only gives you a log of which wines you’ve had, but also which grape varieties and regions, which is a terrific way of subtly encouraging you to try more of each.
The force behind the company is Alex Fishman, who graduated from Carnegie-Mellon in 2006 and later joined Palantir, the Silicon Valley company, now valued at $9 billion, that does a lot of work for the NSA and the CIA in counterterrorism (here’s a backgrounder in Forbes). Fishman told me over coffee in New York recently that after he had been at Palantir a few years, CEO Alex Karp supported him to pursue his own startup. Fishman said he had always been into food but found wine daunting.
“If you have a mission-driven approach to creating a company, you can do incredible things, such as fight terrorism,” Fishman said. “Our mission at Delectable is to make the world a more delicious place.”
Moreover, it had to be easy (it doesn’t involve typing), mobile (it’s only on smartphones) and intuitive (the smiley-face ratings).
Fishman underscores Delectable’s contribution: “Nobody really had a data set of every SKU and nobody had it on mobile. Ours is the most complete dataset right now.” Comparing the database structure to Cellartracker, he says that the Cellartracker database has a limited number of fields whereas his database structure could have infinite fields for tagging and coding wines.
Fishman is at his most animated when speaking of Delectable’s “social graph,” a fine-grained look at wine: not only where it is produced but where it is consumed and which users are the key influencers. He’s thrilled with the community aspect of the free app, which has been downloaded 2.1 million times. “We know what’s trending, we know which regions are hot,” he said. The most popular regions for Delectable users are California, Champagne and Burgundy, he said, which offers a perspective on the active user base.
“Everyone wants to discover new wines. Wine nerds want to engage with each other. Regular folks want to get ideas,” he said pointing to various leading sommeliers and California winemakers who use the app.
Fishman sees this community aspect as giving a firmer commercial footing to small wineries. “Wine has been incredibly undemocratic,” he said referring to the once-dominant role of critics. “We had to make it democratic or traditional winemaking will die.” Delectable has partnered with a couple of dozen retailers from around the country that it deems among the best, such as K&L and Crush Wine and Spirits. The app now offers an option to purchase a wine via this network once a user uploads an image of it. He says they receive most clicks to purchase on the weekends and, thanks to geolocation, they know that many of those users are ordering while out to dinner at restaurants.
Will data be used for good or evil? Fishman told me, “We aim for good. Our data won’t be used for focus groups and the trade.”
In my use of the app, I have found the community aspect the most underwhelming. Posting the same photos on Instagram and Delectable, I got many more “likes” on Instagram–but I have more followers there too. Fishman aims to change that by making Delectable “THE wine community” within a year. He also aims to hire more engineers and speed up the optical recognition; hopefully, a cellar management component will be added. With their access to capital and connections in Silicon Valley, this is definitely a company to watch.
If you buy a wine at a store that is flawed, many states have laws that allow you to return it. But what if you don’t like it? Well, you could always try suing the retailer if they won’t take it back.
And that’s what Phillip Seldon, the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wine, did. After receiving an email offer from the store, he bought six bottles of CVNE Rioja for $12.99 each from Grapes the Wine Company in White Plains, NY. According to the New York Law Journal, Seldon claims that the email stated that the store’s staff was “very impressed” with the wine and that it received a score of 91 from the Wine Advocate. More from the NYLJ:
Seldon, after deciding that he didn’t like the wine, demanded a refund. When Posner refused, Seldon contested the charge for the wine with American Express. In an email to AmEx, Posner called Seldon “a disgusting human being.” Soon after, Seldon sent the store an email saying he would sue, explaining, “I have nothing better to do with my life,” and filed the suit.
The judge dismissed the case, saying “plaintiff has not demonstrated…that there was any falsity or anything other than plaintiff’s assumptions were incorrect.”
Seldon’s lawyer said he would appeal.
“Patron Who Didn’t Like Wine Loses Suit Against Retailer” [NYLJ]