Red Blend Sales Come Alive – Merlot Sales Take A Dive. Plus Blendfest On The Coast

Blendfest sign

American wines are mixed up – and getting more so every day. According to IRi, a market research company that tracks wine industry metrics¸ annual sales of ‘red blends’ exceeded Merlot sales for the first time this past October, moving into second place behind Cabernet Sauvignon. This raises two important questions. First, what exactly constitutes a “red blend” and second, who the hell still drinks Merlot?

I thought my Uncle Ralph was the only one still drinking Merlot, but that’s not surprising since he still spikes his hair with Brylcreem and sleeps in a waterbed, a combination that has led to the occasional wet dream.

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The Salt Conundrum In Food & Wine Pairing.

Chapter Nine, Part Eight.
Spanish dinner cooked and served on the tableWhen pairing food with wine, sweet and sour tastes fall neatly into the cancellation category, bitter and piquant are subject to the cumulative effect, and umami is best grouped with neutral pairings, but what about salt? In moderation, salt doesn’t seem to have any conspicuous consequence, but how does excessive saltiness in food affect the taste of wine? To learn how (or if) salt fits into the A. cancellation, B. cumulative or C. neutral categories, I invited some friends over for some organoleptic research. They quickly declined until I told them that meant we were going to eat and drink wine.

Good old fashioned research is difficult and time consuming but in the name of conscientious reporting the WASTED team (Wine Snark Academy for Sensory Testing, Evaluation & Debauchery) created a salty feast and drank five bottles of wine because that’s the kind sacrifice we’re willing to make in the name of, umm … science, yeah that’s it, science.

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The WineSnark Academy for Sensory Testing, Evaluation & Debauchery (W.A.S.T.E.D.) On Food & Wine Pairing Principles.

Chapter Nine, Parts Two & Three.
Wine and cheeseShortly after WineSnark began its detailed research into taste perception it became apparent that an undertaking of this magnitude required a research team of dedicated, compassionate wine professionals, or as they’re known in the trade, drunks.

And so was born the WineSnark Academy for Sensory Testing, Evaluation and Debauchery (W.A.S.T.E.D.). We WASTED professionals do not take our research sitting down, as getting back up is often difficult, and because thousands of grapes have given their lives to further our understanding of human physiology, biochemistry, sensory perception and stuff.

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Terroir; From Great Vines Come Great Wines.

Chapter Eleven. Part Three.

“An important part of the pleasure of wine is its reflection of the total environment that produced it. If I find in a wine no hint of where it was grown, no mark of the summer when the fruit ripened, and no indication of the usages common among those who made it, I am frustrated and disappointed. Because that is what good, honest wine should offer. It is not just a commodity subjected to techniques to boost this or that element to meet the current concept of a marketable product.”¹

Gerald Asher, A Vineyard in My Glass

Terroir Puzzle 2 copyThere’s an expression among winemakers that says, “95% of every wine is made in the vineyard.” This simply means that despite the best efforts of man to manipulate wine, its quality ultimately depends on the grapes they start with. Unless of course man takes his 5% and really screws things up, in which case he’ll remind us that 95% of the wine is made in the vineyard. And in case you’re wondering, that’s the vineyard where sour grapes come from.

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It Was The Best Of Wines. It Was The Worst Of Wines.

Chapter Eleven. Parts One & Two.
The November 1997 issue of the Wine Spectator rated the Louis Latour 1990 Corton-Charlemagne 98 points … and 88 points.

98 LOUIS LATOUR Corton-Charlemagne 1990
Exotic, wild and savage. A deep, “gonzo-crazy” terroir wine, full-bodied and packed with dried herbs, honey and spicy oak. Almost tannic in structure, it explodes like a small volcano on the palate for an unbelievable experience. Not for the faint of heart though.

88 LOUIS LATOUR Corton-Charlemagne 1990
Mature, with an herbal, slightly leathery accent to the pear and oak flavors. Shows its age via dryness and coarseness on the finish.

In the same issue the 1995 Arrowood Réserve Spéciale received 95 points … and 82 points, and the Rochioli 1995 Allen Vineyard Reserve was awarded 96 points … and 85 points. These dyslexic point spreads were not the result of ADD (Alcohol Drinking Disorder); these Dickensian observations were simply a tale of two critics.

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